Document Type

Article

Abstract

To a degree unimaginable even as recently as twenty-five years ago, people all over the world can communicate with each other easily, cheaply, and frequently, with the concomitant result that people learn more about what is happening elsewhere in the world and even in their own countries. Governments can no longer control information flow nearly to the extent that was once possible, and that has enabled people outside of government to know much more about what government is doing and to know it considerably sooner than might otherwise have been the case. That availability of information is changing the nature of sovereignty before our eyes.

Part II of this Article explores some of the difficulty of even defining sovereignty. Part III discusses the history and manifestations of the concept and offers some consideration of the true locus of sovereignty in democracies such as the United States. Part III also briefly considers the implications of sovereign immunity in democracies, such as ours, founded on basic ideas of popular sovereignty. Part IV addresses how recent advances in communicative technology are affecting the power of governments vis-à-vis their own citizens, using Iran and Myanmar as examples of how technology makes it more difficult to “keep a lid on things.” Part IV also discusses why advances in communications technology are necessarily double-edged, presenting problems stemming from governments' technological abilities to track sources of information (and therefore to retaliate against those distributing information that governments prefer kept secret) and from the sheer volume of information accompanied often by it being unverifiable. Further, Part IV examines how the free availability of information and citizens' ability to communicate among themselves without effective restriction by government tends to make government more accountable to the people. Lastly, Part IV addresses some problems inherent in the onslaught of communication that modern communicative technology has made possible. Part V concludes that the combination of those forces may be shifting the locus of sovereignty from government to populace.