War and the Government Business

Wars are pretty good things if you happen to be in the government business. Under a perceived threat, small groups benefit from merging into larger ones. When they do, they surely need more governing.

Thirteen weak colonies banded together in 1775 to escape the most powerful country on earth. Germany did the same in 1871 though it had just defeated France in the Franco-Prussian war. Italy completed its unification in the same year. Some remain unconvinced of the wisdom of that plan.

The dog’s dinner that is the map of the Middle East doesn’t count because it was done to them not by them after World War I.

The sales pitch for unification is that common interests outweigh divisive ones. Different languages, cultures, religions and histories seem less important than the desire to avoid being conquered.

But what is the sales pitch for dis-unification as contemplated by Scotland, Catalonia, Venice, Kurdistan, Tibet, South Sudan, various parts of California and sometimes Texas? Presumably it is the reverse: the interests that divide us outweigh the common ones.

Thanks to the Internet making it possible for everyone to have everything he wants whenever he wants it, we have become spoiled about having precisely our way on all things instantly. This is not good for government. The more prosperous and diligent tire of supporting the less prosperous and diligent. Those who see the world one way no longer value compromise with those who see it another.

With no particular threat of conquest, smaller size is not perceived as disadvantageous. At least when it comes to wars.

Economics is different and it makes sense to be affiliated with the largest number of people in an integrated market. Hence, we have NAFTA, the EU and, if President Putin has his way, a former Soviet common market.

The available choices of relationship between government and the governed are insufficient. An a la carte menu would be better. Those in the government business would oppose it because it would diminish their importance.

Secretly, big government fans should be grateful to Vladimir Putin for pinching Crimea. War is good for the government business.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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