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1- 10-9-12Stat vs Roaming Bandits.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 211
Fillippo Sabetti

Stationary vs Roaming Bandits 10/9/12 9/10/2012 11:55:00 AM The VALUE of Political and Economic Order -Stationary versus roaming bandits. Olsen Reading (Prof Details)  Olsen was an economist who contributed to our understanding of the theory of collective action  People want to act in groups but their individual desires trump their ability to work time and time again.  Olsen’s starting point: No society can satisfactorily work if it does not have a peaceful order & other public goods and services  Anarchy does not work well. (I.e Somalia)  In small groups, order can emerge by voluntarily agreement as each member can more easily receive shared benefits. The larger the group is the more difficult it is to organize for collective action.  Larger groups in collective action cannot work without enforcement mechanisms.  How then have large societies through history established order (avoid anarchy)?  Once roaming bandits settled down and became stationary bandits they began to provide for peaceful order. By contrast, roaming bandits have little incentive to produce longstanding goods or institutions.  Once a bandit makes himself a ruler he provides for peace but continually extracts a price for that service. I.e once a colonial power settles down he must extract the largest possible surplus for himself while providing some sort of public goods and services. Tradeoff between oppressiveness and incentivization for production.  Olsen produces tax as a form of theft. Or the tradeoff between theft and public goods and services.  Leaders of democratic regimes are also self interested, the chief difference being that in a democracy the political competitiveness constrains leaders from obtaining the maximum personal surplus from society. o Therefore, care in raising taxes etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.  Adam Smith ref: The invisible hand. The greatest advantage of democracy is that it prevents significant extraction of social surplus on the part of their leaders. (In economics, invisible hand or invisible hand of the market is the term economists use to describe the self-regulating nature of the marketplace.) How then: can democracies emerge from autocracies? A balance of forces in society. A dispersion of forces and resources in society makes it impossible for any set of leaders or groups to overpower all others and establish autocracy. Ex: Much more difficult to establish a dictatorship in a society as complex and varied as the United States or Canada.  Ex: democracy in Germany was imposed via historical influences and the external influence of Ame
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