Why do we have governments?

Ancient philosophers in general thought that it was to establish virtue or do good. Most modern public choice scholars are more modest in their evaluation of government.

We simply want government to provide those goods and services that people in fact want and that, for a variety of reasons, are hard to provide through the market.

Most people, for example, would like to have the poor taken care of by taxes on those better off. It is true they would have no objection if the poor were taken care of by voluntary contributions, but our experience seems to indicate that voluntary contributions don’t produce adequate funds for this purpose. Hence the use of the government to provide that particular service is generally approved. Of course, that does not prove that in general people are in favour of the exact quantity transferred or the methods used by the government.

There is a large literature on why certain types of things, sometimes called public goods, are provided by the market in a very inefficient way and will be provided in a better (although far from optimal) way by the government.

…We will just accept as a fact that there are a number of things which are better dealt with by the government. We will also accept as a fact that there are other things which are better dealt with by the market.

…In general, we want the government to give the citizens what they themselves want. That, indeed, is the point of democracy.

The smaller the government, the smaller the number of its voters. The smaller the number of voters, the more power each individual voter has. That’s one side of the argument.

On the other side, we have the fact that many government services are hard or impossible for small governmental units to provide.

These two arguments have to be set off against each other and since different government activities will turn out to have a different balance, having different governmental sizes is sensible.

… The existence of many small government units dealing with certain special problems has another advantage. Not only are these small governments more under the control of their voters in the sense that each individual voter’s preferences count for more than in the large government, their existence means that citizens may move from one to the other if they are dissatisfied.

Gordon Tullock

The New Federalist (1995)

New Zealand is not a federal state. I like federalism because a divided government is a weak government.

Competition as a force for media accuracy or infotainment

Limiting the number of TV stations has unusual effects on media slant and muckraking.

Tyler Cowen argues that competition by itself is not a powerful force for media accuracy.

In the traditional conception of the demand for news, audiences read, watch, and listen to the news in order to get information. The quality of news is its accuracy.

But when there are many media outlets, competition results in a common slanting of news towards reader biases in the audience niche each network are serving. The market is very good are serving up what the customer wants.

Competition forces news outlets to cater to their customer’s niche preferences.

  • Realised profit is the criterion by which the market process selects survivors: those who realise positive profits survive; those who suffer losses disappear.
  • Positive profits accrue to those news outlets who are better than their competitors. These lesser rivals will exhaust their retained earnings and fail to attract further new investor support.

On topics where reader beliefs diverge on politically divisive issues, media outlets profit from segmenting the market and slanting reports to the biases of their niche audiences.

There is less bland truth-telling and more of the polemics that each market niche wants.

This means that left-wing and right-wing media outlets will hound the political enemies of their readers to cater to the preferences of their audience niche.

The clearest illustration of infotainment is the Lewinsky affair:

  • The left wing press presented information designed to excuse Clinton’s sins; and
  • The right wing press dug out details pointing to his culpability.

When there are only a few media outlets, the networks instead go for the median viewer/reader and offer more sedate and less scandal driven coverage.

More media competition increases the chances of the muckraking that brings down ministers and governments.

The Market Monetarist

Markets Matter, Money Matters...

Darwinian Business

A blog exploring business from an evolutionary perspective, by Max Beilby

Spin, strangeness, and charm

Politics, media bias, science, and psychology

Moneyness

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Family Inequality

by Philip N. Cohen

What Paul Gregory is Writing About

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Woman's Place UK

Violence against women and sex discrimination still exist. Women need reserved places, separate spaces and distinct services.

TVHE

The Visible Hand in Economics

Kids Prefer Cheese

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

PILEUS

A Classical Liberal Blog on Political Science, Economics, Philosophy, Law, and More

George Mason Economics Society

Provoking discussion by publishing economic writing

Club Troppo

Economic, legal, political and social commentary

Offsetting Behaviour

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

single sex spaces

Single sex spaces are a question of consent

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

Tudor History from the Wars of the Roses to the Death of Elizabeth I

Weapons and Warfare

History and Hardware of Warfare

Escape Velocity

Visions Of A Freer Future

Economist's View

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

No Punches Pulled

Laughter – the best medicine

TannerOnPolicy

Politics and Policy with a Libertarian Twist

Notes On Liberty

Spontaneous thoughts on a humble creed

Mostly Economics

This blog covers research work in Economics with focus on India.

Map Dragons

Written by map lovers for map lovers

New Historical Express

(Formerly Hatful of History)

FondOfBeetles

a developmental biologist in a gendered world

CONVERSABLE ECONOMIST

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Barrie Saunders

Thoughts on public policy and the media

The Victorian Commons

Researching the House of Commons, 1832-1868

Coyote Blog

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

American Enterprise Institute – AEI

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

The History of Parliament

Blogging on parliament, politics and people, from the History of Parliament

Catallaxy Files

Australia's leading libertarian and centre-right blog

Climate Audit

by Steve McIntyre

Books & Boots

reflections on books and art

Legal History Miscellany

Posts on the History of Law, Crime, and Justice

Sex, Drugs and Economics

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

The Long Run

the EHS blog

The Undercover Historian

Beatrice Cherrier's blog

%d bloggers like this: