The Size of Nations

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MIT Press, Jan 14, 2005 - Business & Economics - 272 pages
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The authors of this timely and provocative book use the tools of economic analysis to examine the formation and change of political borders. They argue that while these issues have always been at the core of historical analysis, international economists have tended to regard the size of a country as "exogenous," or no more subject to explanation than the location of a mountain range or the course of a river. Alesina and Spolaore consider a country's borders to be subject to the same analysis as any other man-made institution. In The Size of Nations, they argue that the optimal size of a country is determined by a cost-benefit trade-off between the benefits of size and the costs of heterogeneity. In a large country, per capita costs may be low, but the heterogeneous preferences of a large population make it hard to deliver services and formulate policy. Smaller countries may find it easier to respond to citizen preferences in a democratic way. Alesina and Spolaore substantiate their analysis with simple analytical models that show how the patterns of globalization, international conflict, and democratization of the last two hundred years can explain patterns of state formation. Their aim is not only "normative" but also "positive"—that is, not only to compute the optimal size of a state in theory but also to explain the phenomenon of country size in reality. They argue that the complexity of real world conditions does not preclude a systematic analysis, and that such an analysis, synthesizing economics, political science, and history, can help us understand real world events.


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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

This book offers a lot of modeling but very little understanding. The authors' basic argument is simple; some public goods are cheaper when provided on a large scale, which makes big states more ... Read full review


Overlapping Jurisdictions and the State
Voting on Borders
Leviathans and the Size of Nations
Openness Economic Integration and the Size of Nations
Conflict and the Size of Nations
War Peace and the Size of Nations
Size and Economic Performance
The Size of Nations A Historical Overview
The European Union

Federalism and Decentralization

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Page 3 - Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.
Page 3 - The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source* A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property...
Page 1 - A nation is a group of people united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbors.
Page 8 - Every now and then the scientific theories of economics and sociology are challenged as disregarding certain particulars. That, instead, is a merit. One must first obtain a general concept of the thing one is studying, disregarding details, which for the moment are taken as perturbations; and then come to particulars afterwards, beginning with the more important and proceeding successively towards the less important.2 541.

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About the author (2005)

Alberto Alesina is Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economics at Harvard University. He is the coauthor (with Enrico Spolaore) of The Size of Nations (MIT Press, 2003).

Enrico Spolaore is is Professor of Economics at Tufts University.

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