The State Should Respect Regional Customs, Traditions, and Self-Government

December 2, 2013

One of the houses on the Isle of Sark. Nine miles off the coast of Guernsey is one of the smallest of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Sark. It is officially a feudal state governed by a seigneur. The only motor vehicles allowed on Sark are tractors, since no cars are allowed on the island on Sark or its neighboring island, Herm. The Sark “taxi” is a horse-drawn carriage which takes visitors around the island, which is only 3½ miles long and a half across. Sark is actually two islands, Great Sark and Little Sark, which are joined together by an isthmus, called La Coupee.

Our proposal of a State is one where the principle of subsidiarity is practiced to a high degree. As a result, the State respects individual social units oriented towards the common good and recognizes certain rights, functions, and privileges that allow them their own autonomy, or even quasi-sovereign rights.

Thus each region develops its own customary laws and traditions. Each guild, university, or religious association maintains its own way of self-government and self-regulation. The result is a patchwork of local authorities at all levels exercising unique powers proper to them. David Herlihy writes that it is a “kind of partnership in the exercise of power,” a “shared jurisdiction and authority,”(*) which made of the medieval State a federation of autonomous social entities—each suited to its own needs, each with immense cultural and social richness, each generating veritable cohorts of legendary figures.


(*) David Herlihy, History of Feudalism (New York: Walker, 1971), 207. “The nature of feudal government,” Herlihy states, “excluded all possibility of a true absolutism” (ibid).


John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 208.

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