Posted by: cousindampier | 24 September 2009

Until This is Stopped

The legitimacy of government and the protection of people

A large element in the legitimacy of the state is the social contract between the state and its people. The state prosecutes murderers and other criminals of the public trust, because if the public doesn’t feel secure in their pursuits, they will move to change the status quo (at least where they can; when the state is the violator of that trust via the military, all bets are off).

So when something like the murder of anti-Taliban elders in Pakistan happens, my initial reaction is, “oh, that can’t be good.” Pakistan is a Jekyll-Hyde state – parts work well, parts are broken. The Swat valley is somewhere in that second category. There, the state has a huge opportunity in the turn of tribes against AQ, but the tribal militias are very much out for themselves. If working within a government context helps them, so much the better.

AT the same time, I pause to consider the concept of the wild, wild west. The challenge after the civil war was not as much the reconciliation of the North and South as it was the co-opting of the west into the rest of the country. To that extent, a lot of local laws and customs were overlooked until the state had enough resources to remain established and enforce the rule of law (the establishment of states helping this process along).

People, especially rural or tribal, are going to approach the idea of a state as, “prove it to me.” The state, in that effect, has to establish that the people are better off working in the context of the state rather than fighting it or ignoring it. The complex agreement is the state allowing the tribes to continue much of their culture, while the tribes submitting to some authority of the state, especially in law-enforcement.

Phillip Bobbit wrote about how the new form of the state, the market-state, is about maximizing the opportunity of its people. The relationship between people and state changes under those circumstances, but to what? The state provides the context (basic education, health care, neutral internet, etc) and lets its people go where they may, achieving what they will to the maximum of their abilities?

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