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Power of Judge: Manent and Bhagwati Views on Laws Research Paper

In ancient times the importance of a supreme ruler need no explanation. During the time when tribes and small city-states regularly went to war there was a clamor for a warrior-king. Ancient civilizations find stability in a tribal lord or in a monarchy. In order to perpetuate power and ensure stability a kingdom was established to guide and to protect the people. This was achieved through the creation of laws. Later on it was discovered that these laws were unreliable because there are numerous ways of interpretation and application.

Manent described it succinctly when he referred to these laws as the “tangled web of feudal, ecclesiastical, familial laws” that he said carried weight only because they were passed down from past generations (Manent, p.172). There should only be one source of law and when that system was established it was institutionalized and known in modern times as the state.

Manent was able to show the link between the law of the land and the state. This is why he objects to globalization because he sees it as the emergence of something unnatural. Bhagwati on the other hand reminded the critiques of globalization to examine the big picture and not to see it as a “homogeneous and undifferentiated phenomenon” (Bhagwati, p.7). He argued that there is a way to see globalization from a different perspective, from a vantage point that helps them appreciate its power to increase efficiency among nations.

Canada-U.S. Border Facilities

A few months ago the U.S. President Barack Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The purpose of the meeting was to seek a “sweeping deal to establish a North American Security and trade perimeter … that could lead to jointly operated Canda-U.S. border facilities” (Alberts, p.1).

The purpose of the said facility was clear to both national leaders it would be an “integrated entry-exit system to track travelers and the deployment of ‘cross-designated’ law enforcement officers to intercept terrorists and criminals” (Alberts, p.1). However, not everyone was thrilled with this idea.

It is easy to understand why the U.S. and Canada find it mutually beneficial to develop this border security and tracking system. This is because of the huge land mass of two countries and thus one can just imagine the length of their borders. It will be very expensive to maintain an effective system of deterrence for smugglers, drug traffickers, and terrorists. But if they will combine their resources then the byproduct is a cost-efficient apparatus.

It is also an added incentive that the volume of trade between two countries is so significant that from a import-export point of view the said joint project makes a lot of sense. However, there is one crucial issue that has to be dealt with before both governments can begin construction and the development of the manpower needed to maintain the said facility. Their number one problem pertains to the issue of sovereignty.

Manent’s View

Pierre Manet’s ideas regarding the sovereignty of the state is a useful tool in the attempt to interpret the proposed Canada-U.S. border facilities. The United States government as well as the Canadian government had to explain the problem of sovereignty. Leaders from both sides of the fence assured their respective constituents that there is no need for concern.

There are two viewpoints that has to be considered here before Americans and Canadians can accept the assurances made by their respective politicians. The first one can be seen from the point of view of Americans. If one will examine this issue from the American side of the border then there is really nothing much to say. This is because the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world. It will be foolhardy for Canada to challenge the sovereignty of America.

The same thing cannot be said of from Canada’s side of the border. If the system becomes operational then the U.S. government will become privy to what is going on in Canada. Furthermore, U.S. law enforcement officers will be authorized to enter Canada and apprehend suspected drug traffickers and terrorists.

This may seem acceptable on paper but when U.S. agents begin harassing suspected criminals that happen to be Canadian citizens then diplomatic ties will be strained. It becomes very problematic if U.S. law enforcement agencies will insist that a particular Canadian citizen is suspected of being a member of a terrorist group and the United States would like to extradite that person.

After looking at the issues and the problems that may emanate from the North American security and trade perimeter, Pierre Manent’s worldview comes to mind. His ideas will help clarify some of the issues that were raised by the critiques. This is because Manent was able to clearly explain the importance of sovereignty and why the existence of sovereign state explains long-term stability and prosperity in the countries that embraces its tenets.

If one will utilize Manent’s understanding of sovereignty and the law then it will be revealed that the Canadian government has a different interpretation of international law as compared to the United States.

Even before construction of the said project has begun, President Obama already had an inkling of the potential conflicts that the American government had to deal with and he was quoted as saying that he expected Canadian Prime Minister Harper to be very protective of Canadian values as he expects himself to be vigilant when it comes to the core values of the United States (Alberts, p.1).

This seemingly minor differences can result in conflict. This is why Manent asserted that there cannot be two rulers, two judges, or two sovereign states giving their own interpretation of a particular law. Manent said that, “To overcome the conflicts that inevitably arise in society, a neutral place is needed … a place essentially superior to them and whose decisions are binding; there is a need for a supreme arbitrator or judge” (Manent, p.174).

By coming together to build a superstructure that allow the powers of both governments to overlap will mean that the United States and Canada has blurred the lines that supposedly help them distinguish where that neutral place is supposed to be located.

Bhagwati’s View

Manent’s ideas are not new. It was based on the groundbreaking theories of Hobbes a medieval philosopher who asserted that security, stability, and peace can only be achieved if the citizens will surrender his rights to an institution.

This institution will in turn gather all the collective rights of all people and create a system that is beneficial for all. In other words it only when man fully surrenders his rights and obey without question the rules given by the sovereign state above him then it is only then that he can experience the benefits of good governance.

Manent is advocating the creation of boundaries that separates one sovereign state from another. In his world view this is the only way to be assured of peace, stability and progress. This is also the reason why Manent dislikes globalization, the mere idea of a borderless world does not appeal to Manent.

He wanted the familiar feel of national boundaries and that mankind should learn to appreciate them. Globalization is something that Manent dislikes so much because it creates confusion and the destruction of systems developed a long time ago.

Bhagwati on the other hand seeks to rectify the usual misconceptions that people have on globalization. He was able to do this by pointing out that, “the popular discourse on globalization has tended to blur the lines between these different dimensions and to speak of globalizaiton and its meris and demerits as if it were a homogeneous, undifferentiated phenomenon” (Bhagwati, p.7). In other words this is not the best way to look at globalization.

Bhagwati would like the world to know that globalization is not just about free trade and more open borders but it is also about sharing of ideas and collaboration. This is true because if this is applied to North Korea then one will have an easy time understanding why this country is so far behind its neighbor the South Koreans. This is because the country is closed to the influence of others.

If the same principles are applied to the proposed Canada-U.S. border facilities then it can be argued that the Canadian and U.S. government are not trying to destroy their sovereignty, they simply wanted to collaborate. There is no need to violate the sovereignty of another country.

This task is easier said than done. It would be a challenge to tell a critique that that globalization can be a force for good. When nations come together in mutual respect and yet decided to work together then a successful collaboration will ensue. This means that an enhanced byproduct can be expected and a more quality workload can be the assured outcome of the partnership.

Nevertheless, it is important to maintain sovereignty. This is the only way to ensure stability. There must be a system in place that will be able to resolve conflict and other issues in the most efficient manner. National leaders will have to balance the tension sovereignty and collaboration. There is still much work that needs to be done to have a clear grasp of globalization. The principles of governance dictates that a centralized form of government may be efficient in the short run but a very costly proposition in the long-run.


Without Manent’s theoretical framework it would be difficult to understand the inherent problems that comes with globalization and partnerships with other nations. Manent succeed in pointing out the importance of the law. Most people take it for granted that there are laws of the land that help keep them safe and assure them of a much better quality of life.

Bhagwati on the other hand provided a theoretical framework that enable people to see the big picture Bhagwati was able to show that globalization is more than free trade and the reduction of tariffs to enhance business opportunities. Bhagwati said that a correct understanding of this world view will enable nations to come together. Bhagwati seemed to understand the fact that a country no matter how powerful requires the assistance of others.

This is why the United States wanted to push through with the idea of building a North American Security and trade perimeter. There is a need for collaboration in order to create a much better product. Collaboration also enables the accomplishment of seemingly impossible tasks.

Take for instance the security aspect of the said project. The United States can spend billions of dollars to monitor and track the people and goods that come in and out of the U.S. border in Canada. But it would be better to share the costs and the burden of patrolling and monitoring the length of the U.S.-Canadian border.


The theoretical framework developed by Manent and Bhagwati were utilized to analyze the proposal to create the North American Security and trade perimiter. Using Manent’s point of view this project should not be given the go signal to proceed. This is because in accordance to Manent’s world view each state must remain sovereign so that the law will be enforced and that confusion and conflict will be avoided.

However, Bhagwati’s theoretical framework does not agree with Manent’s ideas regarding sovereignty. Bhagwati said that nations can work together without compromising their idea of sovereignty. Bhagwati has a better theory when it comes to dealing with collaborators and partnerships. Manent on the other hand has a useful theoretical framework when it comes to studying the application of law in the international stage.

Works Cited

Alberts, Sheldon. “Harper, Obama agree to integrate border, creating secrity and Trade Perimeter.” The Gazette. Feb. 2011. 10 Mar. 2011. <>.

Bhagwati, Jagdish. In Defense of Globalization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Manent, Pierre. A World Beyond Politics: A Defense of the Nation-State. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006.

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"Power of Judge: Manent and Bhagwati Views on Laws." IvyPanda, 20 Feb. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/power-of-judge/.

1. IvyPanda. "Power of Judge: Manent and Bhagwati Views on Laws." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/power-of-judge/.


IvyPanda. "Power of Judge: Manent and Bhagwati Views on Laws." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/power-of-judge/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Power of Judge: Manent and Bhagwati Views on Laws." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/power-of-judge/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Power of Judge: Manent and Bhagwati Views on Laws'. 20 February.

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