From l'Etat, c'est moi, to l'etat, c'est George

An interesting paper in Cartographica, titled somewhat obscurely "From l'etat c'est moi to l'etat c'est l'etat: Mapping in early modern France" has been published by Christine Petto, professor of History at Southern Connecticut State University.

Her argument is that mapping assisted and shaped the way political government shifted from sovereignty (the king, the prince, or l'etat c'est moi) to the (more familiar to us) modern state of government (or l'etat c'est l'etat). Petto's analysis is quite in line with standard history. In the west we've changed from all-powerful sovereigns to elected government in one form or another. In the USA, you could even say the Revolution was all about throwing off the dictatorship of the (foreign) ruler George III, and asserting this self-governance of the people. Goodbye to the sovereign!

I wonder then, what we are to make of the John Yoo theory of government? In case you've never heard of him, Yoo was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Bush Whitehouse and he wrote his memo in the wake of 9/11. Basically it argues that all power in wartime rests in the Executive, that is, the office of the President:

"In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make."
As First Amendment lawyer Glenn Greenwald points out, this arrogation of powers by the current administration is not a fringe academic theory, but rather its a defining characteristic. The Yoo memo has been used to justify the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, among other things.

It's rather strange that we are facing a situation where the country is swinging back to sovereignty again.

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