*The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty*, the new Acemoglu and Robinson book

Due out in September, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, here is an excerpt from the Amazon summary:

State institutions have to evolve continuously as the nature of conflicts and needs of society change, and thus society’s ability to keep state and rulers accountable must intensify in tandem with the capabilities of the state. This struggle between state and society becomes self-reinforcing, inducing both to develop a richer array of capacities just to keep moving forward along the corridor. Yet this struggle also underscores the fragile nature of liberty. It is built on a fragile balance between state and society, between economic, political, and social elites and citizens, between institutions and norms. One side of the balance gets too strong, and as has often happened in history, liberty begins to wane. Liberty depends on the vigilant mobilization of society. But it also needs state institutions to continuously reinvent themselves in order to meet new economic and social challenges that can close off the corridor to liberty.

You can pre-order here.

Comments

More kickbacks from Bezos Corp?

If Tyler is hard up for cash, he could always do the Youtube circuit explaining why transgender pronouns are oppressive and that will net over $1M/year. For 200k, he could get Alex to lob some milkshakes at him and play victim. There's easy money to be made here in right wing partisan theater land. For the record, I've never met a neo-Nazi or Antifa, I only see huge sums of money being allocated to people that tell me they exist, why I should be afraid, and why they are deserving of money.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” - The Declaration of Independence

A lot better than what these two are peddling.

I love those words - brilliant!

Sadly, the concept of rights has expanded to include "positive"rights, like the "right" to housing, food, medical care, abortions, free college, and who knows what's next. Those "positive rights" will be paid for by the people that work and pay taxes to find the needs of people who, according to that nutcase AOC, "are unable or unwilling to work".

Once the productive people start paying for the "positive rights" of the people "unwilling to work", then the beginning of the end has begun.

Btw, where is Tyler's 4th of July themed post?

Sad.

How is it inconsistent?

"laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness"

This is indeed a moving target, or would not have just enjoyed a 72 mph(*) commute across the sprawl of Los Angeles.

* - a speed I calculate to be fast enough ("Happiness"), but with little chance of a speeding ("Safety") ticket.

Yep. And that whole "...that AMONG these..." bit. Remember, strict literal readings here.

Well, at least America is being blessed on a day celebrating with a Trump production, produced by Donald Trump, directed by Donald Trump, starring Donald Trump, and paid for by the American taxpayer.

Celebrating the nature of liberty in America today, with a public area being cordoned off to meet the private whim of the president, whose devotion to himself is beyond question.

'But it also needs state institutions to continuously reinvent themselves in order to meet new economic and social challenges that can close off the corridor to liberty.'

So many words, when all one needs is to repeat 'MAGA!' With a few 'Lock her up!' chants for the sake of nostalgia.

This thing tomorrow is definitely Trump at his most fascist-y. He looks like Mussolini in a bad toupee out there.

'He looks like Mussolini'

Not even close - Il Duce had that Italian flair for public presentation that a reality TV star can never hope to emulate. Or if one wishes to draw on the nation that provided the apparent inspiration for this Trump production, produced by Donald Trump, directed by Donald Trump, starring Donald Trump, a figure like General De Gaulle.

Besides, Mussolini could draw on a rich imperial tradition to bolster his blustering. Cadet Bone Spurs seems unaware of what makes America great - and it is not Sherman tanks. Or Mustangs or Old Ironsides, for that matter.

I should add that one still sees Sherman tanks as memorials representing liberty in France (and pointed towards Germany, understandably, when placed at the crest of a hill looking out towards the Rhine Valley). The French are big fans of Patton. for he was an American general with the sort of dashing elan and sense of style that the French appreciate.

Trump's great patriotic display of tanks and jet fighters to celebrate my country's military might and global dominance is why I love my country! Iran and liberals will tremble in fear this July 4th! #maga2020

Shame that no one thought about prepping Enola Gay for public display, isn't it? Talk about a missed opportunity to celebrate America.

It’s routinely on display at the National Air and Space museum facility. It’s quite beautiful, as many aircraft are, and an amazing technical and industrial achievement for its time.

'It’s routinely on display at the National Air and Space museum facility'

Yes it is, but that is not the backdrop Trump is planning to speak in front of in about 11 hours. If current reporting is to be believed, he wants to be flanked by AFVs.

'It’s quite beautiful,'

I have never been a fan of the B29's appearance, to be honest, but tastes vary.

Indeed.

With all members of congress and the Supreme Court assembled in large, open review stands within 100m of heavily armed vehicles manned by patriotic, battle-hardened veterans from out-of-town, I predict a spectacular day of celebration that shall be long remembered.

To avoid overcrowding though, Democrats are to assemble at 1100, with Republicans to take their seats at 1300 onwards.

Nothing wrong with a grand celebration for the greatest country to ever exist. I can see how you might be offended if your loyalties lie with the cosmopolitan Davos types, but hey, it will all be over soon. Just cover your eyes.

I am glad I am giving this advice too late:

Donald should spend the day with his grandkids, wearing facepaint, eating hot dogs, and heck, manning the barbecue grill.

That would have won him some crossover support, as a normal guy, with a healthy outlook, who loves his family.

Anyone forcefully loving tanks that (in Trumps actual words) are "stationed" on the Mall is already in the bag. No gain.

'Nothing wrong with a grand celebration for the greatest country to ever exist.'

One of the most prominent things about that greatness was how little it rested on the sort of militarism that marked all of the European nations that the U.S. rose above.

Nothing lasts forever, including greatness based on principles and the glorious words that mark Independence Day..

I think we should call Trump fans who love the armor Tankies.

Trump Tankies.

I think the authors need money so they publish or perish from the public eye... the summary is so nebulous. Something about boiling a frog comes to mind.

Ancient history: there are as many theories about the causes of the decline and fall of the western Roman Empire as there are writers. The same can be said about the Great Depression and the Great Recession. I'm grateful that our MR web hosts generally spare us of that dismal stuff.

That being said, the US is exhibiting many causes of a collapse.

I hesitate to say pattern, but I am taken by the observation that many, many states across multiple domains and times, do seem to degenerate over time, in terms of their ability to both tax efficiently, and spend those taxes "responsibly" (i.e not on luxuries for the ruling elite).

I respect Acemoglu and Robinson for knocking on the door of a Very Big Theory of state death which links game theory to state survival. It deserves more attention than it gets.

The "collapse" is a social one, not truly related to government or politics. It is well described by Spengler, and refuted by no one, here. The evidence for it is even now obviously apparent.

Well, actually it is the Roman Republic and its fall that has similarities to the current age. If you read here, you will see that this type of stuff tends to happen over and over in history. People tend to fall for the same type of things, and sometimes when you are reading the commentaries of ancient authors, you kinda feel a deja-vu.

"One side of the balance gets too strong..."

Obviously, there are many examples of governments becoming too strong and stifling liberty. That's most of human history! What would be an example of society crumbling from too much liberty? Are the only examples ones where the state couldn't enforce basic laws against theft, violence, etc.? What is history's most prominent example of a society that was cruising along great but then collapsed because it didn't do enough wealth redistribution or didn't create enough old-age entitlements?

Some progressives like to argue that the US is far behind other countries in its welfare state, e.g., healthcare, college education, maternity leave, etc. So, does that mean the US is the worst-case example of what could happen if society tilts too much in favor of liberty and doesn't have strong enough welfare state institutions, as in, "Be careful of not having enough welfare or you could end up like the US in late 20th and early 21st centuries"? If so, then that doesn't seem too bad. On the other hand, if the US is not one of the worst cases, then that would mean the US isn't really that far behind in its welfare state institutions.

Healthcare has been the cause of middle class resentment. Both Obama and Trump have been beneficiaries of this since the establishment has no idea why the US can't do what every other modern nation can do. Failure to fix this then expect even weirder and more unhinged leadership in DC. Education costs is generational, so when the Millenials and Gen Z become more politically aware of their state of indentured debt expect another brand of fiery politics.

" What would be an example of society crumbling from too much liberty?"

Elector Poland.

Yugoslavia? Libya? Syria? Most of the former Soviet Union?

Don't discount violent disintegration. It is too much freedom when government loses a monopoly on force.

And to forestall some bad answers, remember that you cannot really have a nation of laws without a monopoly on force.

Remember on this holiday, that in 1775 some farmers decided to challenge the government - King George and Parliament - monopoly on force and created the greatest, richest, most egalitarian nation on earth in the history of the earth.

Ironically, the spark that ignited the conflagration was initiated by the sending of a state sponsored army to seize the weapons of those farmers at Lexington and Concord.

The army failed in it's mission and the rest is history.

Remember that 25,000 Americans died in the Revolution. As a percentage of the population, that is the most of any war in US history except the Civil War.

Show some gratitude and respect.

I'm proud to be American, but fairly agnostic on the idea that violent revolution was necessary to get here.

We are ninety some percent the same as Canadians, who managed without it.

Canada does not have the equivalent of the First or Second Amendments, so I do not consider Canadians to be truly free. That they are happy in their servitude means nothing to me. Canada is what you get when GB steals the land by force from the French and Indians in the Seven Years War and then populates it with Tory traitors fleeing Boston for their lives. We got the Cajuns and Canada got the Tories. As bad as the Cajuns are, we got the better deal - better food and better music and more individual rights.

Canada is beefing up though - by implementing a points system for immigration and leveraging the protection from the third world hordes provided by three oceans, an ice cap, and a border with the richest nation on earth. The US is to Canada what Jupiter is to the Earth - it takes all the hits from third world immigration. Canada takes the doctors, engineers, and scientists. That's a good deal if you can get it.

Speaking of infrastructure, we should build a non-stop bullet train from the Mexican border to the Canadian border and let Canada take all the poor, uneducated, Spanish (or Indian language) speaking immigrants from Latin America. Then let's see if they are ninety percent of the USA under those circumstances. One advantage the Canadian overlords have is the absence of a right to free speech, so they don't have to listen to any squeaking from the nativists. The locals can't express their thoughts about immigration and thus will never be heard. Even so, Canada has sold British Columbia to Chinese money launderers, causing a housing crisis for Canadians living in Vancouver.

https://m.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/05/08/vancouver-housing-crisis_n_9864968.html?utm_hp_ref=ca-vancouver-housing-crisis&ncid=other_homepage_tiwdkz83gze&utm_campaign=mw_entry_recirc

Canada has enjoyed a nice peaceful niche as a backwater of the British Commonwealth treated with benign neglect and protected by the awesome power of the USA and the Monroe Doctrine.

Another unearned blessing for Canada is that it could not grow tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane so never had African slaves and the awful multi-generational consequences of that great injustice.

Canada is also blessed with rich natural resources including oil, gold, many other minerals and exports ~$500 billion worth of goods, ~75% to the USA and Mexico, accounting for ~ 25% of their economy. Nice!

Canada has the nicest, safest house in the neighborhood and they keep the riff raff out.

Lucky Canada.

I'm picturing you at a party.
"Hey ladies, you want to hear an analogy comparing Canada to America involving Earth and Jupiter that's so clever you'll want to show me Uranus?"

Remember also that no plebiscite ever occurred prior to the treason and rebellion that led to the American revolution. A substantial portion of the population wished to remain British subjects but were bullied, browbeat and ultimately forced to leave their homes by traitors.

Not surprisingly, any deviation from histrionic patriotism became, as it is now, the most disgusting form of public behavior. Treason good then, bad now.

True. However, how do you conduct a plebiscite in an area of that size in 1775 when the area is partially occupied by the most powerful military on the planet at that time? When it takes weeks by horse to go from Boston to Virginia?

We can't know the exact numbers, but estimates are that 1/3 were Patriots, 1/3 were cowardly Tory scum, and another 1/3 were sitting on the fence and willing to sell their cowardly souls to the winner.

We will never know, but we know who the winners were.

Btw, why should anyone feel compelled to be loyal to King whose ancestors stole their lands via the battle axe and the blood of peasants.

You feel compelled because the King and his men could kill you and take your land. That's how feudalism works.

The reality is that the American Revolution was simply a later battle in the extended War of the Three Kingdoms. The New England Puritans were the New World version of Cromwell's Roundheads and the return of Charles II and later monarchs was never accepted by them. They fomented the revolution and, in fact, the American War Between The States was another episode in the centuries-long conflict between the Puritans and other religions, triggered by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner's public denunciation of S.C. Senator Andrew Butler and subsequent beating by the cane of Preston Brooks. Only later, when immigration had produced large numbers of Irish and Italian Catholics in the Boston area, was the negative influence of the Puritans tempered.

The Soviet Union's problem was too much liberty? I'll take these answers as a concession that anonymous can't think of any collapsed societies whose problem was too much liberty.

This "too much liberty" is really more commonly described as a "weak state." Somalia is another great example. Basically the people (society) think they can do better, the government can't placate them, so the people rise up, do their own thing... and end up captured by a whole new set of dictators "for the people."

Late Tsarist Russia. Weimar Republic. Military coups, even. Either the state gets too strong and oppresses the masses, or the state gets too weak and the masses reorganize into oppression.

I bought their other book, I though it was airport-bookstore-level stuff. Pretty unimpressive. These guys are supposed to be top-tier economics academics?

Never mistake economics for real hard science. Economics teaches people to behave like cuckolds so those at the top can extract their pound of flesh with the least amount of resistance. It is fake science.

I don't agree with your language but your sentiment might actually be correct.

"Why Nations Fail" was written for a general audience unfamiliar with their previous academic work. All in all, Acemoglu and and Robinson are right, to a point. But like nearly all people who study in this field, they place too much importance on a single cause, when, in reality, economic prosperity is the result of numerous variables that interact in sometimes unique ways from case to case.

I found Stephen Broadberry much more convincing than their "Why Nations Fail":
http://www.lse.ac.uk/Economic-History/Assets/Documents/WorkingPapers/Economic-History/2013/WP184.pdf

The balance between central authority and sub-national groupings is discussed in Mark Koyama & Noel Johnson's "Persecution & Toleration", which has a worthwhile review here:
https://www.liberalcurrents.com/myth-and-modernity-a-review-of-persecution-and-toleration/
There Cameron Harwick borrows Michael Mann's distinguishing between "despotic power" and "infrastructural power". Regarding that, he writes:
"In fact, if we take the point seriously that infrastructural power consists largely in the power to make binding commitments, it is notable that infrastructural power increased for all economic actors during the early modern period, and not only (or even primarily) for the state."

Judging solely by that abstract, it kinda sounds like warmed-over Fukuyama (Origins of Political Order).

The threat to liberty is largely derived from the machinations of the legal profession, the school apparat, higher education, the social services apparat, and schemers within the professional associations. The Democratic Party is their electoral vehicle. This will not end well. The smart money says these two authors haven't a clue.

Correct.

Having lost their popularity with the common people of the US, the strategy of the Democrats is to flood the nation with a new people, in defiance of the rule of law and the will of the people, buy the allegiance of the invaders and their US born progeny by giving them free stuff, dismantle the checks and balances - proof of Identity, right to work, immigration status - that exist to garauntee the legitimacy of elections, and eventually take control of the government and punish the rightful citizens of the nation.

Everything I just wrote is obviously nutty conspiracy theory garbage, except for the fact that the Democratic candidates for President all openly stated that they want to downgrade violation of our sovereign border with the equivalent of a parking ticket, except with less bite, and reward all the invaders with fee healthcare, free education for their numerous children, and other goodies paid for by the soon to be abandoned legitimate citizens of the nation.

We are witness to our very own battle of Adrianople.

Couldn't they afford to hire someone to put that into decent English?

Liberty really just means exit rights: the ability to threaten the overweening State with a loss of its tax base. Unfortunately, the American frontier closed in 1890.

Tyler really believes that we the people pre-order books...

Comments for this post are closed