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The maintenance of public order—when public order is conceived in its minimal sense as community control and prevention of private violence-is commonly and appropriately regarded as the first indispensable function of any system of law. The securing of a public order—understood in a broader sense as embracing the totality of a community's legally protected goal values and implementing institutions—which seeks, beyond an effective community monopolization of force, the richest production and widest sharing of all values, is today also commonly projected as appropriate aspiration by most mature territorial polities. The intimate interdependence of these two conceptions of public order is obvious. Effective prevention and repression of private violence are necessary prerequisites to establishing appropriate institutions for the most rewarding pursuit of other values. Conversely, a full opportunity to pursue individual and community values through peaceful procedures, by lessening predispositions to coercion and violence, may be expected to further the continued maintenance of minimal order.

Conspicuous features of the world social process today include the increasing unity of demand among most of the peoples of the world for achievement in the international arena of public order, in its widest as well as in its narrowest sense, and the increasing awareness that efficient world institutions for the optimum creation and distribution of values depend upon the securing of minimum order. Subjecting the processes of coercion and violence among nation-states to effective community controls is thus the most fundamental contemporary problem for all who seek a world public order honoring, in deed as in rhetoric, human freedom. This problem is not of course peculiar to our age, although the implications of continued failure, given the existing weapons of catastrophic destruction, are now perhaps unique. It had its origin with the first conception of a community of states under a common law. When emerging territorially-based polities first began to constitute an international arena, the problem became, as it remains, the central one in international law.

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