Sunday, July 10, 2005
Posted by Glen Whitman at 11:48 AM
As an example of polycentric law, Tom just cited the case of ambassadors who are not subject to the same laws everyone else is – instead, they are (to some extent) able to live under the laws of their own countries. I don’t find this example terribly persuasive. It does demonstrate the narrow point Tom was making, that the existence of polycentric law does not mean total chaos, cats and dogs living together, and mass hysteria. Okay. But the relationship of ambassadors to regular citizens doesn’t strike me as a great model for social interaction in general. Ambassadors have a special loophole that allows them to dodge some of the rules that apply to everyone else, e.g., rules of the road, and sometimes to the detriment of others. The bad behavior of diplomats (or their children) does lead to nasty conflicts from time to time; if it doesn’t happen often, that’s probably because the number of ambassadors is small compared to population as a whole (even in D.C.). In addition, if ambassadors behave especially badly, they can be forced to leave – the legal equivalent of banishment. It’s also worth noting that ambassadorial privilege trumps the usual rules, so there is still a genuine hierarchy of jurisdiction, not simply coexisting rule sets for the very same people and activities. Here’s an interesting question: what happens when two ambassadors get in a car accident with each other?
Labels: Liberty and Society 2005