San Salvador’s upstart mayor, Nayib Bukele, has promised a new way forward for a city besieged by decades of violence. His biggest obstacle, however, may not be the city’s gangs, but the city’s idea of itself.
“Mediaeval liberty,” said Lord Acton, “differs from modern in this, that it depended on property.” But the difference is surely a difference oniy in degree, not in kind. Money may have less influence in a modern than in a mediaeval court of law. But outside the court of law? Outside, it is true, I am legally free to work or not to work, as I choose; for I am not a serf. I am legally free to live here rather than there; for I am not bound to the land. I am free, within reasonable limits, to amuse myself as I like; archdeacons do not fine me for indulging in what they consider unseemly diversions. I am legally free to marry anyone (with the possible exception of a member of the royal family,) from my first cousin to the daughter of a duke; no lord compels me to marry a girl or widow from the manor, no priest forbids the banns within the seventh degree of consanguinity. The list of all my legal freedoms would run to pages of type. Nobody in all history has been so free as I am now.