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Time-asymmetry of Government: Terminal Stage Approaching

May 21, 2010

I gotta read Matt Ridley’s new book, The Rational Optimist.  He’s going to be on the Reason/TSI Cruise in January, and here’s a snippet Arnold quoted from the book:

Empires, indeed governments generally, tend to be good things at first and bad things the longer they last. First they improve society’s ability to flourish by providing central services and removing impediments to trade and specialisation; thus, even Genghis Khan’s Pax Mongolica lubricated Asia’s overland trade by exterminating brigands along the Silk Road…But…governments gradually employ more and more ambitious elites who capture a greater and greater share of the society’s income by interfering more and more in people’s lives as they give themselves more and more rules to enforce, until they kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. There is a lesson for today.

This is exactly my view of history, the one you can find in Mancur Olson, or applied to the USA in Rauch’s book “Government’s End”.   The normal mode of government is to parasitically waste more and more of society’s resources, until there is a phase shift (collapse, revolution against government, revolution of colony against empire, etc)[1].  The US and Europe have, in my opinion, moved from the middle stage of this process towards the end stage. They have only decades remaining in their current form. If you want to personally influence the future, you should be watching this trend and asking yourself – what comes next? How can the transition be as painless as possible?

The sad thing is, a lot of people are wasting a lot of time and resources on trying to cure this metastasized terminal cancer. There don’t seem to be that many people who are, like we at this blog (and my professional work at TSI), working on figuring out the next stage. I really wish there were more serious alternatives (real options with real transition plans – not utopian hopes) being proposed, and more resources behind all of them.  I’m biased, but I don’t think it’s just that. This is serious, folks.

Although…much less serious than past collapses. I don’t think there will be much starvation or bloodshed. Paying attention to your own life and letting societal re-organization take care of itself is eminently reasonable, this time around.  I don’t fault anyone for doing that.  But I do fault those who act without careful analysis, and so make poor use of their resources.  Ah well – took me many years to see the light.

Anyway, just wanted to make sure everyone knew that current socialist western democracies are in a slow collapse, in case you hadn’t gotten the bulletin yet :).

[1] To be honest, I must admit that I’ve only studied this phenomenon in the context of  democracy, so while I am inclined to believe it is more generally true, that could just be my prejudices speaking.


  1. Max M permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:25 pm

    Matt Ridley is excellent. I’d suggest you also read “The Red Queen” as well, it’s full of good stuff.

  2. May 22, 2010 8:43 pm

    I like to think that this natural progression is being accelerated by the spread of the Internet. Things which might have taken years to play out pre-Internet, can now happen in a much shorter timeframe – sometimes even seconds.

    In other words, the Internet shortens the feedback loop for everything. Say a piece of legislation raises the price of a particular commodity, which changes the price of consumer goods based on that commodity, which changes job prospects in a particular industry, which causes people to find a job in a different industry, which causes them to relocate to a different state or country, which contributes to the fiscal collapse of the place they are emigrating from. The Internet speeds up every step in that chain of events.

    So, hopefully everything you described will happen sooner rather than later. Let’s go ahead and get it over with.


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