From the archives: Unconstrained Government

Any serious analysis of the structural causes of India’s dysfunction has to refer to the institutional deficiencies. One major causal factor is that the government has practically no constraints on it. An unconstrained government has the power to effect radical change if it so desired, or to impose the status quo by not allowing any innovation or dissent. The content of the actions of an unconstrained government, therefore, matters immensely.

Unconstrained government power is wonderful provided good and wise people govern. But good and wise people, by their very nature, are the exception in the population, and even rarer in government. Given that an unconstrained government has the power to extract and exploit riches from the economy, the most avaricious and the most corrupt can be expected to compete for the power to govern. The outcome is predictable: a kakistocracy — the government of the least capable and the most corrupt. Continue reading “From the archives: Unconstrained Government”

Order without intent

Adam Ferguson (1723 – 1816) was a moral philosopher and historian. He was a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. In his An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767) he observed:

“Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.”

The claim is that sometimes order emerges from the actions of the collective without there being some master plan that was being followed. The term “spontaneous order” describes that well: “the emergence of various kinds of social orders from a combination of self-interested individuals who are not intentionally trying to create order through planning. The evolution of life on Earth, language, crystal structure, the Internet and a free market economy have all been proposed as examples of systems which evolved through spontaneous order.” (wiki) Continue reading “Order without intent”

Reading: Confucius Lives Next Door

I am reading a most delightful book. It’s Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West by T. R. Reid, published in 1999. He was the Tokyo bureau chief of the Washington Post. He and his family spent a few years in Japan in the 1990s.

Here’s an except from chapter 2 “Eastern Flavor”:

Continue reading “Reading: Confucius Lives Next Door”