Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

National Locus

  • Giuseppe EusepiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7883-6_337-1


The idea of nation grew out of the ancient idea of law and subsequently evolved in the form of national states as territorial boundaries. The unitary national state turned what was an internal conflict between a statesman and a merchant into an external conflict among nation states. As the USA and the EU demonstrates, the concept of nation state as a public good is either ambiguous or tautological. In a more or less distant future, the national locus is apt to move from a territorial to a procedural dimension.


Public Good Local Public Good Nation Cluster Constitutional Political Economy Independent Judiciary 
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National consciousness as opposed to nationalism.

The idea of nation has been worked out by the Romantic movement, and it may be regarded as the force that set in motion movements engaged in asserting national identities in Europe such as the Italian Risorgimento (Salomone 1970) and the German Nationsbildung (Hroch 2005), which began during the first half of the nineteenth century and extended until the second half of the century and beyond.

The progenitors of the idea of nation are to be found in the idea of state, which marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age, and much earlier in the idea of law that had its roots in ancient Greece and, above all, in ancient Rome. In ancient Rome, law was basically a private law: the ideas of law and order guaranteed private property and the related freedom of exchange.

Nineteenth-century idea of nation capsizes the private-public law relationship, which shaped the ancient Roman law. The conflict between public law and private law is best represented by the perennial conflict between a statesman and a merchant: the former operates for the purpose of bringing about adjustments of relations among individuals, and the latter is concerned with individuals’ desire to get rich. The idea of nation emerged exactly to nuance this conflict by turning conflicts within the nation into conflicts outside the nation. The concept of national locus separates the nation as a unit from the rest of the world. In symbolic terms, the national anthem and the flag symbolize the national locus by definition, but from a more rational point of view, the clearest definition of national locus is the Constitutional Charter and constitutional political economy sensu lato (Buchanan and Tullock 1962). The clue to constitutional political economy is to be found in the consensual-contractual dimension, which is the outward form of the inward notion of metarule; thus, the notion of national locus becomes constitutional locus. In this context, the centrality of the constitutional law requires that control on application of the law be operated by a judge acting objectively and impartially just as a judge of the Constitutional Court.

Standard or mainstream economic thinking has been much concerned with a substitute for the procedural component, which was viewed as irrelevant. One such substitute has been seen in the objective dimension with the consequence that the concept of national locus loses its process connotation (including the democratic one) and becomes a measure of an optimal national quantity commonly lumped in the label GDP or better public goods. In its widest abstract sense, the concept of national locus can be pictured as a defense or protection line against external invasions by other nations as well as by foreign goods. Although the concept of national locus seems to have strengthened itself in public economics, especially in the form of Samuelsonian national public goods, nevertheless it is not free from conflicts. And, in fact, the conflict arises, not only because the distinction between national public goods and local public goods is not so sharp but because the theoretical foundations of the national and local dimensions may be ambiguous. National public goods, if we are to understand what they really are, should be viewed in their territorial dimension – and in this case the distinction is tangible but tautological. There is in fact a difficulty in drawing a line between “local locus” and “national locus” because they shade into one another and give rise to a dimensionally ambiguous concept, which is not clearly determined. The same may be said of the national locus vis-à-vis the supranational locus. The United States and the EU are a flagrant example of this indeterminacy. While in the United States the federal government is the emblem of the national community (national locus/national constitution), in the EU, member states (national loci) are a subset of a supranational body.

Despite its manifest negativity, this ambiguity is tonic to the advancement of the very idea of national locus. No doubt it is too soon to foreshadow an era in which the concept of national locus is conceived of as separated from the concept of nation as territory. But there seems to be good ground for asserting that the national locus will increasingly move over from a spatial dimension to a procedural dimension (supranational alliances). Moving from a territorial dimension to a procedural dimension involves the abandonment of the concept of nation and a stricter role for law and rules.

In a nutshell, the national locus is a notion moving a great distance away from a territorial symbolic connotation of a nation clustering around its hymn and flag. Against this background, the national locus is apt to transform itself into the notional locus of the law (Eusepi 2008) built up over the two foundations of the law: civil law and common law (Pound 2000).



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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Law and Economics of Productive ActivitiesSapienza University of Rome, Faculty of EconomicsRomeItaly