Arnold Kling on the growth in government

1.  Institutions are affected by technology perhaps even more than by ideology.

2. In 1800, the United States was a large country relative to the
transportation and communication technologies that were available at
that time.  Further, it was very divided, both politically and
economically, over slavery.  Thus, one does not see major national
institutions of any sort, private or public.

3. The rise of powerful industrial corporations and the rise of a
large public sector in democracies over the past 150 years are results
of changes in technology.  Economies of scale have increased, because
transportation costs have fallen and communication is faster and

I agree with #1-3.  Here is more.  I would add that American government grew big as soon as it had the technological ability to do so; that suggests to me that the latent demand for big government, for better or worse, was already in place.  I await Brad DeLong’s book-length treatment of this topic.


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