Brutus on the Optimal Size of Nations

In a republic, the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar. If this be not the case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions; and the representatives of one part will be continually striving against those of the other. This will retard the operations of government, and prevent such conclusions as will promote the public good. If we apply this remark to the condition of the United States, we shall be convinced that it forbids that we should be one government. The United States includes a variety of climates. The productions of the different parts of the union are very variant, and their interests, of consequence, diverse. Their manners and habits differ as much as their climates and productions; and their sentiments are by no means coincident. The laws and customs of the several states are, in many respects, very diverse, and in some opposite; each would be in favor of its own interests and customs, and, of consequence, a legislature, formed of representatives from the respective parts, would not only be too numerous to act with any care or decision, but would be composed of such heterogenous and discordant principles, as would constantly be contending with each other.

That’s from Brutus #1. He has half (and by far the most important half) of Alesina and Spolaore’s model of the optimal size of government. Speaking of which, you should go check out today’s secession week topic at LaTNB!

When I first read the Federalist Papers, I remember being struck by the subtlety of Madison’s public choice theorising. Now that I’m reading the Anti-Federalist Papers, I’m far more impressed with them and inclined to see Madison as naive in comparison. Sadly, I suspect he remains more realistic about politics than any politician who has come since.

Secession Week

If you’re a fan of political decentralization, you should check out Secession Week at Let A Thousand Nations Bloom. Today’s topic is “Introduction: Independence Is Better Than Revolution”, and there a couple of great posts by Bill Miller and Patri. I’ll have some stuff to say about the size of nations tomorrow.

Here’s the schedule for the week:

  • Monday: Introduction, Independence Is Better Than Revolution
  • Tuesday: The size of nations.  Is smaller better?  What determines size?
  • Wednesday: Culture and secession. We usually take an economic approach, but most secession movements base their arguments on group identities.
  • Thursday: Economic Secession, from Agorism to tax havens. What are the ways market-based, voluntary institutions can pave the way for incremental secession from political institutions?
  • Friday: Is it possible for a state to secede from U.S.? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has written that, if any constitutional issue was resolved by the Civil War, it’s that there’s no right to secede. Is the U.S. forever to be, as the Pledge of Allegiance has it, “one nation, indivisible”?
  • Saturday: Was the American Revolution a Mistake? We’ll don our counterfactual hats to discuss revolution skeptics like Bryan Caplan.
  • Sunday: Final Roundup. We’ll circle wagons, round up the action, and launch of few final squibs and fireworks.