In their book The Size of Nations, Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore argue that, if America were as centrally governed as France, it would have broken up long ago. But hey, that’s no reason not to try it! In a land where everything else is supersized, why not government? Obituaries for the late Andy Griffith generally glossed over his career finale as a pitchman for Obamacare. But he was a canny choice to sell the unsellable, for is not “health” “care” “reform” the communitarian virtues of beloved small-town Mayberry writ large? The problem is you can’t write Mayberry large. And, if you attempt it, it leads not to Mayberry but to Stockton, Calif., and to a corrupt, dysfunctional swamp. A large Sweden is a contradiction in terms. It cannot be done, and the more determinedly you try to do it, the more you will preside over a ruined wasteland. The road to hell isn’t paved at all, and the street lamps went out long ago.My own neighborhood is much closer to Mayberry than to a Wall Street populated by Gordon Gekkos. We dispense almost entirely with formal enforcement mechanisms and operate, if not on the basis of pure charity, at least on an extremely loose barter system that's more like the old social convention of alternating entertainments than like a ledger. But it's a small neighborhood, and the close-knit aspect is earned, to some extent, by each getting to know the others and demonstrating a willingness to act right. We don't try to incorporate even the local town into the system, let alone the nearest city. But shouldn't we be trying to expand the brotherhood of man rather than build walls around our own private Camelot? I believe that, so the question for me is what's most likely to succeed in that ambition. Experience tells me that giving strangers respect as autonomous beings, but extending charity to them if necessary, is more likely to bring people together evenetually over a wider and wider area than encouraging each to treat the group as his private teat. I don't know why dependency on strangers corrodes most people, but I'm convinced it does.
H/t Maggie's Farm.