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Additional resources for New Challenges for Political Philosophy
The pressure of circumstance, however, occasionally forces practicing politicians, and ordinary students of world events, to recognize some of the complexity of sovereignty. Hence, in the days when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain and in the habit of jousting with other members of the European Economic Community, she frequently complained that portions of British sovereignty were at stake, and she was very often entirely correct in her view. 22 If these proposals are ever put into practice, the sovereign prerogatives of the members of the Community will be substantially reduced.
This feature of the psychology of political leaders may partly explain why nations facing no military threat from abroad yearn to have armies, and the bigger the better. 18 Armies are a symbol that a nation capable of standing alone, is self-sufficient and self-dependent in Aristotle's sense. But for weak and impoverished nations that can afford only minimal military forces, symbolism may be all their defense budgets can buy. Hence, the genuine and defensible reasons nations have for making a guiding principle of respect for the sovereignty of nation-states may reduce to the practical and emotive reasons after all.
The whole cloth view of sovereignty, embedded in conventional wisdom and flaunted in the rhetoric of politicians, is a serious misconception, and a more complex formulation must be introduced as a corrective. National governments, as a matter of fact, possess greater or lesser degrees of sovereignty, whether in terms of physical control, legal authority, or freedom from outside meddling. Governments may, in addition, enjoy sovereign control in some areas but not in others. Also, sovereign authority is occasionally held jointly by a number of agents.