Chapter 22: Natural law and federalism
Nicholas Aroney’s chapter addresses the relationship between natural law and federalism. Natural law theories have sometimes been seen as harbouring a bias towards centralised and unitary conceptions of legal order, but Aroney contends that this view misunderstands the tradition. Natural law theory, he argues, has consistently supported the independent existence of a multiplicity of political communities and jurisdictions, bound by agreements or understandings with one another. Aroney then asks what kind of account of human nature and human sociality would be necessary to ground the legitimacy of this federalist outlook. He argues that human relationships and social ordering are initially local and particular, but harbour inherent aspirations to more distant and universal community bonds. In this sense, social relations both are fundamentally covenantal in origin, reflecting bonds and obligations, and federal in structure and orientation. Actual federal arrangements often reflect messy and perhaps unstable compromises between the social, economic and political interests of different groups and communities. On a deeper level, however, federal arrangements have a normative basis in the fundamental character and orientation of human social relationships.
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