[FoRK] Time Asymmetry of Government: Terminal Stage Approaching

Jim Whitehead ejw at cs.ucsc.edu
Thu May 27 02:57:08 PDT 2010

This seems to echo the critique of bureaucracy raised by William Niskanen.


for an overview of the evolution of thought concerning the function and 
disfunction of bureaucracy.

What seems to be new in Ridley's book is the attempt to manufacture of a 
sense of urgency about the problem. However, as the Wikipedia page 
shows, these are old problems.

A graph of government spending as a percentage of GDP over the 20th 
century shows a leveling off starting at 35% in the early 1980's:

The only blip is recent, and is due to the recession and the large 
bailout bill. It should return to the 1980's onward plateau once the 
recovery hits.

This data does not seem to support a "metastasized cancer" hypothesis 
for overall US government spending.

- Jim

On 26-May-2010 3:50 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> Cf.
>    http://athousandnations.com/2010/05/21/time-asymmetry-of-government-terminal-stage-approaching/
> Time-asymmetry of Government: Terminal Stage Approaching
> MAY 21, 2010
> tags: Seasteading, Reason Magazine, Mancur Olson, jonathan rauch,government's end, matt ridle
> by patrissimo
> 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.
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