The Arbiter with the Golden Scepter: A Theory of Government

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

In The Arbiter with the Golden Scepter: A Theory of Government, Arnold Kling builds up to the following conclusion:

People on the Left tend to see society as consisting of individuals (often weak or poorly informed), markets (efficient but uncaring), and government (looking out for the collective good). Instead, what I see are many layers of institutions that can solve collective problems. These institutions of civil society are — unlike government — flexible, creative, and capable of downsizing or disappearing as they lose relevance or effectiveness.

The Left’s view, static and impaired, is that when a social problem arises, any solution requires government. The Left’s approach of referring every possible problem to the Arbiter would, if it were embedded in a corporate setting, be considered micromanagement and over-reaching of the worst sort.

The alternative view, dynamic and entrepreneurial, is that solutions to social problems can emerge in many ways from the institutions of civil society. Government should function as an Arbiter only when necessary. It should not use its Golden Scepter to force its way into decision-making processes that are working peacefully. People who want to improve society should be encouraged to form associations that produce constructive solutions, rather than to root for politicians.

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