Finding the "Sovereign" in "Sovereign Immunity": Lessons from Bodin, Hobbes, and Rousseau

David Schraub
<span title="2017-07-03">2017</span> <i title="Informa UK Limited"> <a target="_blank" rel="noopener" href="" style="color: black;">Critical Review</a> </i> &nbsp;
The doctrine of "sovereign immunity" holds that the U.S. government cannot be sued without its consent. This is not found in the Constitution's text; it is justified on philosophical grounds as inherent to being a sovereign state: a sovereign must be able to issue commands free from constraint. The sources of this understanding of sovereignty-Hobbes, Bodin, and others-are, in turn, condemned by opponents of sovereign immunity as absolutists whose doctrines are incompatible with limited,
more &raquo; ... tional government. This debate, and thus the usual conception of sovereign immunity, rests on a fundamental mistake. Hobbes and his peers were careful to avoid the conflation of government with sovereignty. "Sovereign" immunity, then, is an imposter doctrine that protects government officials by falsely draping them in the sovereign's cloak. The only sovereign actor, in the American polity, is the people in the act of making or amending the Constitution. Our true, Hobbesian sovereign immunity is nothing more than our unbounded freedom to enact constitutional law.
<span class="external-identifiers"> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener noreferrer" href="">doi:10.1080/08913811.2017.1403730</a> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener" href="">fatcat:xhjbplnhmna4vh5ztr3bvmd6gi</a> </span>
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