America’s courts can’t ignore the world

Justice Stephen Breyer writes:

It is often said that the world is becoming more international in nature. What does this mean for those of us who live in such a world? When I hear words such as globalization, interdependence, and multinational, I sometimes feel like Stendhal’s hero Fabrice del Dongo at the beginning of The Charterhouse of Parma. He is a soldier at the Battle of Waterloo. He is lost in the fog of war. He hears bullets whizzing past. He sees Napoleon on his horse, charging back and forth. As he watches, he thinks to himself, I know something important is happening here—I wish I knew what it was.

It is hard not to have this reaction to the rhetoric of globalization. Two general tendencies are at work in many fields of human endeavor, including politics, government, and law. On the one hand, there are the forces of globalism, internationalism, and interdependence among nations. On the other hand, there are the forces of localism pulling us toward our communal, even tribal, roots. This distinction is familiar enough, but in most discussions these forces are seen as antithetical to each other. I wish to suggest that such a view is wrong—that the global and the local both refer to well-functioning features of the modern world. In law, as in many other realms, they do not necessarily present us with either/or choices. We often can take account of both, and we often should. [Continue reading…]

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