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Europe and the Federal Experience

Daniel J. Elazar

Europe Returns to Itself

1992 is both the anniversary of a momentus date in world history and is likely to be a momentus date in its own right. Five hundred years after Columbus effectively discovered America and opened the Age of Exploration which led to the settlement of new worlds in the western and southern hemispheres, an act which transformed the globe, the countries of Western and Southern Europe are about to take a momentus step forward toward federal unification. The European Community is a centrifugal force in European history which has emerged after 500 years of centripetal pulls that developed as a result of Europe's great frontier and most particularly its colonialist expression.

For 500 years, Europe pursued the twin courses of colonization overseas and centralized state-building at home. The two went hand-in-hand. The rejection of medieval or any other form of pluralism or power-sharing on behalf of the centralized state, hierarchical or parliamentary, was paralleled by the acquisition of colonies overseas by those new states as part of their muscle-flexing. World War II wrote finis to both of those drives, initiating an era of decolonization abroad and federal integration at home for the states of first western and then southern Europe. Today as the twelve community members draw closer together, they are separating themselves further from their ex-colonies and further decentralizing within their own territories. Thus the demetropolitanization of Europe is accompanied by a rethinking of the European state system. Together they are part of the formation of a new worldwide matrix of regional communities and polities which will be increasingly federal in character.

For Europe, the modern epoch, from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, featured, among other things, a struggle between two approaches to nation-building, one, resting on a combination of medieval corporatism and American revolutionary ideas, sought national integration on a federal basis -- in Germany, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Italy, in Switzerland, in the Low Countries, in Scandinavia, and to a lesser extent in Spain. Opposing that approach was the French ideal of the centralized state which gloried in the location of sovereignty in one, central point, whether monarchic or republican. Portugal and all the other states except Switzerland, and to a lesser extent Germany, followed the French lead, either consolidating into a single centralized state or dividing into a number of smaller centralized states.

The history of Europe has been written as if state-building of the latter kind was inevitable. In fact there was a struggle, philosophically, ideologically, and practically in almost every case.

The rise of fascism and Nazism brought about the collapse of the modern epoch in Europe's Gotterdammerung which affected the whole world. The postwar world brought with it the opening of the postmodern epoch which in Western Europe featured a turn in the direction of federal solutions. The European Community, whose first tentative steps took the form of treaties between sovereign states, slowly began to evolve into a confederation, in the process reviving the possibilities of confederal solutions as realistic ones.

Confederation was the only form of federalism found in premodern Europe. Many of the early modern efforts at federal solutions in Europe rested on the attempt to modernize earlier confederal arrangements. None succeeded. Confederal principles could not be made compatible with the drive for centralized statehood. (The American invention of modern federation, which created the illusion of national statehood became the only successful modern vehicle for expressing federal principles.)

The founders of the European Community developed a new-style confederation, avoiding the problematics of establishing a single, overarching general government in favor of a number of single and multi-purpose authorities serving its member states. These are gradually linking them together through common institutions, emphasizing administrative and judicial institutions with clearly limited spheres of competence over more comprehensive legislative ones. The more grandiose and comprehensive idea of a United States of Europe was set aside -- as the Americans would say, placed on the back burner -- in favor of a more original invention designed to fit European realities.

Madisonian and Althusian Federalism

Modern federalism, invented by the United States, operates essentially on a Madisonian model which, although itself derived from a variety of sources, draws its conception of civil society from Lockean individualism. Hence Madisonian federalism is based on the idea that polities are comprised first and foremost of individuals who combine themselves into peoples out of choice, establishing political institutions in the process by means of political covenants and constitutions. While the Madisonian model has much to teach all those embarked on federal experiments, particularly with regard to how a polity should be modeled in the first place as a matrix of substantially independent cells linked through a common communications network rather than as a power pyramid or a polity with a power center and periphery, it has its limits in addressing the European experience.

The European federal experiment, on the other hand, is built upon pre-existing states with strong identities which are, in turn, compounded of primordial groups. Indeed, it is the persistence of those primordial groups which contributed mightily to the failure of the modern European state system. The modern state system was to be centralized because each state was to be a nation-state, a state of a single nation. Unfortunately for the theory, the reality was such that the primordial groups refused to disappear, often in the face of the most extraordinary pressures directed against them by the state builders.

The collapse of the old state system has reawakened popular ties to those groups throughout Europe. Hence, they too must be considered in developing European federalism. Indeed, the European Community has made it a point of considering many of them, especially those located in what are known as the peripheral regions of the community, in effect developing a de facto alliance with them to balance the power of the member states.

In sum, with all of Europe's new concern for the individual and his or her rights, Europeans do not come to polity-building culturally naked. Thus any successful political solution for Europe needs to be built on a more complex model than that of the United States. Such a model may indeed be available in the federal theory of Johannes Althusius, the first great European theorist of federalism who was one of those on the eve of the modern epoch who tried to foster federal as distinct from statist solutions on the Continent.

Althusius must be considered a figure located at the intersection of the major trends of Western culture. One of the Protestant Christian grand designers, he straddled the Reformation and the opening of the modern epoch. Accordingly, he made an effort to synthesize and somewhat secularize Reformed Protestant thought on the ideal polity and to push it in concrete, practical directions.

The road to modern democracy began with the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, particularly among those exponents of Reformed Protestantism (later rather mistakenly referred to as Calvinism) who developed a theology and politics that set the Western world back on the road to popular self-government, emphasizing liberty and equality. While the original founders and spokesmen for Reformed Protestantism did much political writing, their writing was either theological or polemic in character. Only at the end of the first century of the Reformation did a political philosopher emerge out of the Reformed tradition who built a systematic political philosophy out of the Reformed experience by synthesizing the political experience of the Holy Roman Empire with the political ideas of the covenant theology of Reformed Protestantism. That man, Johannes Althusius, presented his political philosophy in a classic work, Politica Methodice Digesta, first published in 1603 and revised in final form in 1614.

Althusius' Politics was the first book to present a comprehensive theory of federal republicanism rooted in a covenantal view of human society derived from, but not dependent on, a theological system. It presented a theory of polity-building based on the polity as a compound political association established by its citizens through their primary associations on the basis of consent rather than a reified state, imposed by a ruler or an elite.

The Althusian model directly addresses the complexities of the European situation, taking into consideration families and primordial groups as well as formal political institutions, corporations as well as territorial units. In his classic work Politica Methodice Digesta, he methodically constructs a federal system that is both territorial and consociational. Moreover it is one that accommodates the European reality of four or five arenas of territorial governance instead of two or three, the accepted number in modern federations. Several of the EC member states, indeed an increasing number, are themselves federations, with three (or four) arenas of governance. For them the European community is a fourth (or a fifth).

Althusius had the misfortune of publishing his great work at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, just at the time when his compatriots were turning towards statism. In the ensuing struggle over the direction of European state-building in the seventeenth century, the Althusian view which called for building of states on federal principles, as compound political associations, lost to the view of Jean Bodin and the statists who called for the establishment of reified centralized states where all powers were lodged in a divinely-ordained king at the top of the power pyramid or in a sovereign center. While Althusian thought had its exponents until the latter part of the century, after that it subsequently disappeared. It remained for the Americans to invent modern federalism on the basis of modern individualism and thus reintroduce the idea of the state as a political association rather than a reified entity.

In the nineteenth century, one party of German thinkers seeking the unification of Germany on federal principles and led by Otto von Gierke, rediscovered Althusius. There, too, however, Germany's movement toward reified statehood and finally totalitarianism left Althusian ideas out in the cold.

Althusian ideas remained peripheral even to students of modern federalism since modern federalism, was so strongly connected with the principle of individualism that there was no need to consider the Althusian effort to deal with the problems of family, occupation, and community along with individual rights in establishing political order. Only recently, as we have come to see the limits of unrestrained individualism, both philosophically and practically, have political scientists begun to explore problems of liberty in relation to primordial groups -- families, ethnic communities and the like. Here it was discovered that Althusius had much to offer contemporary society.

Martin Buber was perhaps the first to suggest how Althusian ideas could serve twentieth century man, in part basing his political works on Althusius. At the very beginning of his classic study of the Israeli kibbutz as a model for the reconstruction of society along cooperative lines, Buber described the proper social order as a consociatio consociationum, deliberately selecting Johannes Althusius' formulation as the starting point from which to develop his own realistic utopia.

Carl Friedrich, the great academic exponent of German liberalism, revived academic interest in Althusius with his publication of the Politics in its Latin version with an extensive introduction. More recently, various scholars such as Frederick Carney (a student of Friedrich's who translated part of the Politics into English), Patrick Reilly and Thomas Heuglin have explored Althusius' ideas. In his native Germany there has been a renewed interest in Althusian ideas as a foundation for German federal democracy. In Yugoslavia Althusian influence has been a powerful counterweight to Communism as the basis for introducing a measure of republican liberty.

In 1973, I interviewed Professor Jovan Djordjevic, the doyen of Yugoslav political scientists, a close associate of Marshall Tito, and author of the various Yugoslav and republic constitutions during the first three decades of the present Yugoslav regime. In our discussion, Professor Djordjevic indicated how much the construction of that regime had been influenced by Althusian ideas and models.

Somewhere between Buber's utopian vision and the effort to concretize Althusian models in Yugoslavia is the theory of consociationalism developed by Arend Lipjhart, Gerhard Lembruch, and others. Borrowing that distinctively Althusian term, the consociational theorists attempted to explain what is in effect a non-territorial federal division of powers that constitutes a democratic alternative to either Jacobin or majoritarian democracy and to demonstrate how that model has been applied in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Israel, among others. Studies of consociational democracy in action have repeatedly demonstrated that consociational arrangements work best and are longest-lived where they are combined with territorial federalism, in other words where both dimensions of the Althusian solution grand design are present.

There is some dispute among scholars regarding the relationship between Althusius and federalism. Otto von Gierke, the first scholar to try to restore Althusius to his rightful place in the history of political thought, saw him as essentially a medievalist, seeking to reconstruct medieval corporatism for a post-medieval and changing time. Carl Friedrich, on the other hand, the most important figure in the twentieth century Althusian revival, viewed Althusius as the forerunner of modern federalism. Today, Patrick Reilly and to some extent Thomas Heuglin follow the Gierkian approach, while Frederick Carney and this writer follow that of Friedrich.

As a student of federalism in all its forms and a federalist, I would suggest that it is necessary to look to Althusius not only in historical perspective as a transitional figure from medieval corporatism to modern federalism, but as a source of ideas and models for a post-modern federalism. Pre-modern federalism had a strong tribal or corporatist foundation, one in which individuals were inevitably defined as members of permanent, multi- generational groups and whose rights and obligations derived entirely or principally from group membership. Modern federalism broke away from this model to emphasize polities built strictly or principally on the basis of individuals and their rights, allowing little or no space for recognition or legitimation of intergenerational groups.

A post-modern federalism must reckon with one of the basic principles of post-modern politics, namely that individuals are to be secured in their individual rights, yet groups are also to be recognized as real, legitimate, and requiring an appropriate status. Althusius is the first, and one of the few political philosophers who has attempted to provide for this synthesis. Needless to say, his late-medieval thought cannot be transposed whole into the post-modern epoch in the latter part of the twentieth century. But in part because he wrote in a period of epochal transition from the late-medieval to the modern epoch, much of his system, its ideas, and even its terminology, may be adaptable or at least form the basis for a post-modern federalism.

Here we can only outline some of the salient points in Althusius' thought.

1) The foundations of Althusius' political philosophy are covenantal through and through. Pactum is the only basis for legitimate political organization. More than that, Althusius develops a covenantal-federal basis that is comprehensive. Not only is the universal association constructed as a federation of communities, but politics as such is federal through and through, based as it is on union and communication (in the sense of sharing) as expressed in the idea that its members are symbiotes.

Althusius' dual emphasis on federalism as a relationship and on sharing as the basis of federal relationships has turned out to be a basic axiom of federalism. While there can be different forms of a federal relationship and sharing can be expressed in different ways, federalism remains essentially a relationship and sharing its guiding principle.

The polity, then, is a symbiotic association based upon symbiosis and constituted by symbiotes.

2) Althusius deals with the problem of sovereignty, then becoming the critical juridical problem for modern federalism, by vesting it in the people as a whole. On one hand this is what makes the good polity a res publica or commonwealth. On the other it also makes it possible to be a consociatio-consociationum, a universitas composed of collegia, since the people can delegate the exercise of sovereign power to different bodies as they please (according to their sovereign will).

The problem of indivisible sovereignty raised by Jean Bodin became the rock upon which pre-modern confederation foundered. The modern state system was based on the principle of indivisible sovereignty which in an age of increasingly monolithic and energetic states became a sin qua non for political existence. Thus the medieval world of states based on shared sovereignty had to give way. It was not until the American founders invented modern federalism that a practical solution to this problem was found enabling the development of modern federation as a form of government. Althusius provided the theoretical basis for dealing with the sovereignty question over 175 years earlier (no doubt unbeknownst to them) and gave it the necessary philosophic grounding.

Although Althusius himself does not develop a theory of confederation per se, his particular kind of federal thinking in which he sees his universal association as constituted by comprehensive organic communities has clearly had something to contribute to an emerging post-modern theory of confederation. Althusius further understands political sovereignty as the constituent power. This is at once a narrower, more republican definition of sovereignty whose plenary character is harnessed as the power to constitute government -- a power which is vested in the organic body of the commonwealth, i.e., the people. Moreover, once the people act, the sovereignty is located in the jus regni, the fundamental right/law of the realm or the constitution.

This Althusian concept has important implications in contemporary international law which is grappling with the problem of how to mitigate the effects of the principle of absolute and undivided sovereignty inherited from modern jurisprudence in an increasingly interdependent world. Even where the principle is not challenged, the practical exercise of absolute sovereignty is not longer possible. There are an increasing number of situations in which even the principle cannot be applied as it was. One way out in such cases has been to vest sovereignty in the constitutional document itself, that is to say, in what Althusius would refer to as the jus regni. Vesting sovereignty in a constitutional document is entirely consonant with a covenantal federalism.

3) Althusius serves as a bridge between the biblical foundations of Western civilization and modern political ideas and institutions. As such he translates the biblical political tradition into useful modern forms. In this he must be contrasted with Spinoza who a few years later in his Theological Political Tractate makes the case for a new modern political science by presumably demonstrating that the biblical political tradition applied only to ancient Israel and ceased to be relevant once the Jews lost their state (unless and until the Jews were restored). Althusius confronts the same problems of modern politics without jettisoning or denying the biblical foundations. In part this rendered him less useful during the modern epoch when his unbending Calvinist emphasis on the necessary links between religion, state and society, we encounter the development of the modern secular state.

The Althusian version of the Calvinist model of the religiously homogeneous polity is not likely to be revived in the post-modern epoch. We are beginning to recover an old understanding that no polity civil society can exist without some basis in transcendent norms which obligate and bind the citizens and establish the necessary basis for trust and communication. The connection between the decalog and jus as both law and right, while hardly original to Althusius, may offer possibilities for renewed development in our times. Althusius adopts a conventional understanding of the two tables of the decalog of his time, namely that the first table addresses itself to piety and the second to justice, both of which are necessary foundations for civil society.

4) Very important in this connection is Althusius' development of the concept of jus regni, which he derives explicitly from the biblical mishpat hamelukhah (law of the kingdom), enunciated in I Samuel 10, to serve as constitution of the universal association, at one and the same time establishing the constitution as a civil rather than a religious document, yet one which has its source in or at least is in harmony with divine and natural law. While contemporary political scientists emphasize the secular character of modern constitutionalism, examination of most contemporary constitutions reveals that they reflect the same combination of claims, namely linkage to transcendent law, more often divine than natural, yet human artifacts that are civil in character. While in recent years we have made considerable advances in developing an understanding of constitutional design, in doing so we have neglected this linkage and its implications for right law that Althusius calls to our attention.

5) While Althusius was clearly a product of his times and the ideal state of his design is one which reflects the class and reference group structure of sixteenth century German society, it is significant that Althusius leaves open the possibility for democracy as we know it, including female participation in public life and office-holding, and a more classless and egalitarian basis for participation generally. Since I do not have a sufficient command of the Latin text to properly explore the issue, I cannot say whether Althusius has an esoteric as well as an exoteric teaching, but this suggests that there may be a hidden dimension to be explored in the Politics and Althusian thought generally. Nor is the federal aspect insignificant here. Althusius suggests different forms and extents of participation in the different arenas of government as one possible way to extend participation in public life to groups heretofore disenfranchised in the world that he knew.

A contemporary Althusian politics should address itself to the same possibilities; for example, somewhat indirect democracy for county institutions and republican or representative government for what Althusius would have called provincial and we would call state land or cantonal institutions, and for the universal association or general government.

6) Althusius recognizes the modern distinction between public and private realms, yet also preserves the connection between them. In this respect, he, like the moderns who were to follow him, breaks with classic nations of the all-embracing polis to recognize the legitimacy of a sphere of private activity that is constitutionally by right, thereby preventing totalitarianism. Yet he recognizes the connection between the simple and private dissociations of family and collegium and the mixed and public associations of city, province and commonwealth. Indeed the relationship between private and public spheres and associations is a major concern of his as it is increasingly to those of us who must reckon with the realities of the post-modern epoch in which everything is tied into everything else.

One of the advantages of the modern epoch was that it was possible to more sharply separate the public and private spheres because the modern epoch was one in which increased distance between them was possible. This is no longer the case as the new communication requires more Althusian communication, that is to say, as everything impinges upon everything else, more sharing is necessary. Althusius' emphasis on the existence of both natural and civil associations in the private sphere reflects his emphasis on what we would call the natural right of association. The family is a natural association based on two relationships: conjugal and kinship. Since the nuclear family is a conjugal relationship, even it is covenantal. Naturally the collegium or civil association in both its secular and ecclesiastical forms is covenantal.

Mixed and public associations are equally covenantal with the city as a covenantal republic formed of a union of collegia, the province a covenantal union of cities, and the commonwealth a covenantal union of provinces (this is so even though Althusius talks of the rights of the province as an arm of the commonwealth and not simply a union of cities). Covenant for Althusius are the ways in which symbiotes can initiate and maintain associations. They are products of both necessity and volition.

7) Althusius' definition of politics as the effective ordering of communication (of things, services and rights) offers us a starting point for understanding political phenomena that speaks to contemporary political science. This leads us to the second half of Althusian thought: that dealing with statesmanship, prudence and administration. It would be possible to say of the second half of Althusian teaching that it is general to all of politics and not specifically to federalism, except that this would do violence to the first half of Althusian teaching which sees all politics as federal politics. Nevertheless, an examination of that dimension will await another occasion.

The EC and the Contemporary Federalist Revolution

What is happening in the European Community is part and parcel of the federalist revolution sweeping the world. Today over 70 percent of the world's population lives in one way or another under federal arrangements. A third live in formally federal systems and approximately 40 percent in systems that have not proclaimed themselves federal but which must use federal arrangements to accommodate internal divisions.

Look at the world's great powers. Federalism is vital in the United States political system. There could be no United States of America without federalism. For much of this century this truth has been ignored by those who sought to foster class warfare and a remaking of American civil society as a welfare state, but today it has become widely recognized again as the states have taken the governmental initiative within the U.S.A. Moreover, for the first time American federalism is no longer tainted with America's original sin of racism, manifested progressively in slavery, racial segregation, and discrimination, which while not a product of federalism, used the mechanisms of federalism for protection for nearly two centuries.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is now being forced to discover the meaning and possibilities of federalism. For many years even those who counted it among the formally federal systems understood full well that Soviet federalism was almost without meaning, that is was a Leninist device to maintain a multinational empire under Communist rule. Its meaning was confined to allowing the non-Russian nationalities of the USSR to preserve something of their identity and heritage. The situation is now changing day by day with the new Communist leadership hoping that they can introduce real federalism fast enough to outpace the secessionist tendencies of the non-Russian nationalities. It is not unfair to say that the only hope for survival of the USSR lies in the introduction of authentic federalism.

India, the largest democracy in terms of population, is a soundly established federal system in which strong centrifugal and centripetal forces compete with each other constantly. China, on the other hand, has tried to use federal arrangements as window dressing to hold its peripheral regions in place in the Communist mode. Several years ago, it began to seriously consider decentralization of administration throughout the country. Today, of course, all of that is in doubt.

Federalism has survived the crises of the 1960s and 1970s in both Australia and Canada. In Australia, once again it has come to be valued and in Canada the Quebec crisis has more or less been resolved by federalist means. In both cases a new respect for the federal principle as a practical means of governing has developed.

Federalism has become more important than it ever was in Latin America, even if it has always survived there with mixed results. Democratization in Argentina and Brazil has been accompanied by a strengthening of federalist institutions, especially in Brazil where the new constitution attempts to increase the power of the states vis-a-vis the federal government in the name of democracy. Venezuela has moved to strengthen its states through the direct election of the state governors, and in Mexico the political opposition finds the states the principal vehicle for securing any share of political power.

In Europe, the former totalitarian systems of the right such as Germany and Austria, Spain and Italy have found their way back to democracy through federalism, in full or in part. Germany and Austria early on became fully functioning federal systems. Spain has become a very successful federal system in the past ten years, and Italian regionalism has moved in that direction, especially with the decline of the Communist threat in that country.

At the other end of the spectrum, the microstates of the Caribbean, while rejecting federation -- islands, after all, are insular by definition -- are in the process of developing a confederal framework that will provide them with the common institutions they require to serve their needs.

In Asia, Japan, which adopted a system of constitutional decentralization under postwar American occupation, is now considering extending that system further, while ASEAN, presently a league, may be on its way to becoming more of a confederation in the future.

Only in Africa is the future of federalism unclear. Nigeria remains faithful to the present federal principle in words but seems to be unable to avoid military government indeed. Senagambia is the only confederation on the continent and there is some question as to whether it is working. All other attempts at federalism in black Africa or North Africa failed early on. On the other hand, federal solutions for South Africa are widely discussed and federalism will probably be part of any resolution of the conflict there.

As the colonial system has disintegrated, the small territories that remained linked to former colonial powers have been transformed into self-governing polities through asymetrical federal arrangements. These take two forms: federacies, in which the constitutional arrangement between the federate power and the federate state can only be altered by mutual agreement as in the case of the United States and Puerto Rico, or associated state arrangements where the constitutional arrangement can be changed by one or the other unilaterally under specified conditions, as in the case of the United States and the republics of the Marshall Islands.

Significantly, once a polity has embarked on a federal course, it can extend the operation of federal principles in different directions with relative ease. The United States, for example, began as a two-arena federation involving the federal government and the states. Even at the time of union, some states understood themselves to be unions or federations of towns and the idea of constitutionalized local home rule spread throughout the United States in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, faced with the problem of decolonization of its island territories, the United States developed what it calls commonwealth status for Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas, what we refer to as federacy, and adopted associated state arrangements for the Marshall Islands republics. After the revival of native American demands for greater governmental powers for their tribes, the United States began to treat the surviving tribes as "domestic dependent nations," a felicitous phrase coined by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835 but honored in the breech for 100 years thereafter.

As I indicated at the outset, the same process is occurring in Western Europe with federalization going on simultaneously in several directions in the European Community and with regard to overseas territories attached to the Community's member states.

Capping all of this is the growing merger of the world's two state systems: the international system of politically sovereign states and the system of federated or constituent states. This interaction has progressed most fully in the economic realm where the constituent states of federal systems including those of the older federations, the United States, Canada, and Australia, now are actively engaged in economic development activities in the international market. This interaction is slowly being extended in other spheres as well, diminishing the differences between the two kinds of states. As the international system further limits the sovereignty of even the nominally sovereign states and requires the involvement of the federated states to achieve any semblance of international order, the differences between the two are being progressively diminished.

Federalism and Democracy

Federalism, like constitutionalism, is a rich and complex thing, a matter of formal constitutional divisions, appropriate institutions, patterns of political behavior, and, ultimately, of political culture. Moreover, federal democracy offers a complete and comprehensive theory of democracy which stands in sharp contrast to the theories of democracy regnant in Europe until now -- Jacobin democracy and parliamentary democracy on the Westminster model -- not to speak of that monstrous development referred to as totalitarian democracy.

Democracy addresses the great questions of sovereignty and powers (competences), the relationships between power and law or right, and the great issues of centralization and decentralization. It does so by vesting sovereignty in the people who constitute the body politic and requiring them to constitutionally allocate competences or powers among the governments of their creation. They must do so in a noncentralized manner which provides for both centralization and decentralization as needed, but always within a noncentralized framework whereby all exercise of powers is governed by law and related to the rights of the constituents.

Even with the federalist revolution in full swing, there will be those states for whom federal structures will remain inappropriate. Federalism is not a catch-all solution for all problems. Nor should it be looked upon in that way. It is certainly not a panacea. On the other hand, there is one way in which federalism applies to all and that is in the appropriate definition of liberty, properly one of the great demands of our democratic age. There frequently is confusion about what constitutes liberty, a confusion which, when boiled down, consists of a confrontation between federal and natural liberty.

The theory of natural liberty is based on the assumption that every person basically should be free to do whatever he or she pleases, limited only by the forces of nature and the problem of direct interference with the rights of others. In its present formulation, people are at liberty to pursue boorish or self-destructive courses of action. That is their privilege, as long as they do not directly harm others. Contemporary pop culture preaches a gospel of natural liberty.

True partisans of liberty, on the other hand, since the beginning of the modern epoch have consistently emphasized federal liberty, that is to say, the liberty to enter into a covenant with one's fellows and then live according to the terms of that covenant, whether we are talking of Hobbes' limited covenant of peace or John Winthrop's Puritan Christian notion of an all-embracing covenant in which federal liberty consists of pursuing the right way to salvation. The possibilities between the Hobbesian minimalist covenant and Winthrop's maximalist one are great. It is within that range that we find true liberty. In the last analysis, this may be the greatest contribution of federalism to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, free and happy world.


No adequate discussion of the federal dimension of the biblical world view is presently available. Two of the best available treatments of this point are to be found in the works of Althusius and Buber. See, for example, Johannes Althusius, Politics, trans. Frederick Carney (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964) and Martin Buber, Kingship of God (New York: Harper and Row, 1967). This writer has treated the subject in "Government in Biblical Israel," Tradition (Spring-Summer, 1973) and "Covenant as the Basis of the Jewish Political Tradition," Jewish Journal of Sociology (June, 1978). The Israel-based Workshop in the Covenant Idea and the Jewish Political Tradition sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Bar-Ilan University Department of Political Studies and its American-based counterpart, the Workshop on Covenant and Politics sponsored by the Center for the Study of Federalism, are probing that issue among others. The principal work on the former is available in Daniel J. Elazar, Kinship and Consent, The Jewish Political Tradition and its Contemporary Manifestations (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1983). The principal work of the latter is available in Daniel J. Elazar and John Kincaid, eds. Covenant, Polity, and Constitutionalism (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America and the Center for the Study of Federalism, 1984).

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