Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Castillo on Clans

The meme spreads! Andrea Castillo comments on Mark Weiner's The Rule of the Clan and a bit on Kling's review. Note the third graf (I won't excerpt here because it doesn't stand alone very well). Clan membership ain't euvoluntary and it usually comes complete with a codex of coercion.

Mind you, careful comparative analytics will hold as much constant as possible. For example, it's sloppy to compare government in Canada with anarchy in Somaliland. It's also unfair to compare the ideal with the real. Attentive analytical narrators will take care to compare the actual anarchy of Somalia (bad) with their actual experience with government (terrible). Ditto for the secular West. Yes, humanity's experience with clan-based relationships have been enmeshed with what Douglass North and his team call "limited access orders," that is, small-scale political systems where constituents often have muted voice and perhaps a restricted de facto exit option. One of the great advances in political orders was a shift to an open access order, where political elites are known to all and constituents have a say in the political process. Here is the working paper version of the NWW argument (I'm almost 100% sure I've linked it here before).

With that in mind, try to imagine what a clan-based America might look like. Would we see an outbreak of coercion? Given the history of the Frontier, it's hard to imagine that much of the country would revert to arranged marriages or adopt suttee. Still, it is fairly easy to imagine that with a lumpy rule of law that some areas might be more coercive than others. One good argument for a strong, limited central government is to preserve those forces that keep local elites from becoming too confiscatory. The role of the commerce clause in the Constitution is to prevent the several states from raising tariffs against each other. And that ain't just for salable goods, it's for migration too. These united states have been a free trade as well as a free migration zone for almost all of their history. That's one great way to neatly truncate the ravages of local warlords.

In general, I think that even though there may be a libertarian (or a euvoluntary) case for a strong, limited central government, there's not much of a similar case to be made in support of a weak, scattered, diffuse government like we see now. High strength and limited scope in the state leads to more opportunities for euvoluntary exchange.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?