Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Governance and the State: A dichotomy

Interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today. Apparently Hong Kong is instituting minimum wage laws and some anti-trust mechanism. The article suggets this is misplaced populism. Whatever it is, it's an expansion of government intervention in the free market. It will do the same thing to HK as it has done everywhere else these same interventions exist: reduce employment of low-productivity workers, and reduce competition by giving discretion over M&A to government officials.

So fine. The point I want to make here is actually one of degrees of state involvement. There's a lot of discussion about the optimal size of government. The underlying assumption here is that government can be restrained to some fixed size. Of course this is not the case. As any student of history knows, it is the nature of government to keep growing. There is almost never a recession of government power. Most "revolutions" lead to an increase in government power. Not all, clearly. But most.

This leads me to the realization that no "small government" political philosophy is tenable against reality over any significant period of time. Thus the choice is really binary: state or no state. Central government or anarchy. HK stood against increasing government intervention for a long time. It too is falling.


  1. If the historical impermanence of minarchy is an argument against minarchy, then isn't the historical impermanence of anarchy an argument against anarchy?

  2. It would be, but I'm not aware of any period of time where anarchy was actually instituted (so to speak). If you have some examples, I would be very happy if you shared them.