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By Vincent Ostrom

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The American federal system obviously has reference to multitudes of governments-a national government, fifty state governments, at least 80,000 units of local government, and great numbers of corporations, cooperatives, unions, clubs, families and kinships, and other forms of voluntary associations governed in accordance with their own charters, bylaws, and mutual understandings. "Governments" govern in a 18 INTRODUCTION limited sense. But in this configuration of relationships, people have a decisive place in governing affairs.

Ifa "state" is conceived as a monopoly ofauthority relationships and the coercive use of force in a society, then a society governed by a great multitude of governments, many of which have their own police, cannot be conceptualized as a state. I prefer to think of such an arrangement as a "system ofgovernance" or simply as a "political system," recognizing that the feature of being a monopoly need not apply to all systems of governance. , 243). " This is consistent with a view of American federalism as the constitution of order for a self-governing society.

All human beings have a capacity to think for themselves, and their choices will reflect their own computation of the alternatives they consider to be available. People are never perfectly obedient automata; they always strive to better themselves. This is the source of all political contingencies. Hobbes's analysis of man in a state of nature I construe to be a mental experiment to establish a zero base for political analysis. His state of nature is devoid of any political conditions or constraints.

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