Re: We luv the guv't

Damien R. Sullivan (
Fri, 16 Jan 1998 22:10:40 -0800 (PST)

I've mentioned before Jane Jacobs' theory that the economic ideal is
free-trading city-states, but the military ideal (as shown by history) is
large nation-states.

I've just read Richard Posner's _The Economics of Justice_, wherein he argues
that all societies have had economically efficient structures for their
technology. (Robin tells me Posner is not unique in law and economics.) He
goes into detailed analysis of case histories, but the simple argument is
evolutionary: the societies which survive and grow are the ones which are
equipped to survive and grow. Especially hunter-gatherer societies,
which had a long time to adapt to a limited spectrum of environments and
environmetnal change.

To me it seems possible that we have one of the least efficient societies
ever seen on the planet, because of our rapid rate of change; still, while
the convergence of the Western democracies may be because of a shared
infatuation with semi-socialism, the welfare states may just as well be the
natural balance at this time between growth and social order. Or maybe
it's because no one's tried a really efficient anarchy. It's hard to

I'm willing to consider the Communist countries a very failed experiment, not
the natural result of economic forces. I'm less willing to dismiss the
structure of the West out of hand.

On the other hand, such analysis offers hope that new technologies may
change things. Posner explains much about primitive societies by way of
their high transaction and information costs. (Literacy by itself may
be a powerfully transformative technology.) So modern technology may
eventually create more congenial governments for us.

On the gripping hand, we're hoping for evolution on the scale of
decades or less, which may be a lot to ask of humans. And at some point
order and stability _is_ as important as growth, at least if growth
depends on large complex societies. I'm not holding my anarchic breath

-xx- ROU Bibliovore X-)

She became a nun, a nun all dressed in white,
And he became a canted priest and prayed for her by night.