The Peace of Westphalia in the mid-17th Century established the idea of state sovereignty. Under Westphalian principles, each state has exclusive authority over its territory and domestic affairs. That’s been pretty good for kings, ruling elites, and the lucky few who live in top-class democracies or benevolent dictatorships.
But Westphalia is on the way out. Individual sovereignty is coming in.
Territorial state sovereignty is just one way to organize human affairs. It was probably an improvement on constant tribal war, but it’s not the last step in political evolution. It’s exciting to see how the boundaries of Westphalia can be surpassed in favor of individual empowerment. People are increasingly able to conduct their intellectual affairs—speaking, transacting, and so on—without reference to nation-states.
I’m reminded of this far-sighted (or far-out) notion by a relatively practical observation from identity expert and former Utah CIO Phil Windley. In “Self-Sovereign Identity and Legal Identity” Phil says:
We’ve finally gotten to a place where self-sovereign identities are technically possible. This is a huge milestone. The next hurdle is getting organizations, including governments to allow the use of self-sovereign identities as the basis for their administrative identities.