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« Failure modes of the United States, part 6? | Main | Is American democracy doomed? »

October 03, 2013

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There are two reasons, I believe for the greater stability of island states.

The first reason is pretty obvious, island states have much stronger need for state institutions and public good issuance out of the challenges of surviving on what the island grants in terms of natural resources.

The second reason is a bit further out there. Governance tends to include a "in group/out group" dynamic. Stable governance such that an elite can exploit laborers usually requires a degree of "divide and conquer" and public out groups with negative social standing (I've always thought that there is a lot to be gained by studying anti-Roma discrimination in Europe). However, these sorts of policies requires space and some degree of resources for segregation--The woods, or The Ghetto, whathaveyou. Islands don't tend to either have the space or resources to accommodate policies that overtly exclude very large segments of society (no matter how Sinhalese bigots might feel), unless you the Pax Britannica and can dump people off to Australia. Therefore, political and intergroup competition tend to be defacto inclusive, as pogroms have far more immediate economic impacts than, say, Edict of Nantes. So folks tend to understand that they *must* get along more in island society, and the sort of maximalist political activities that marked India post independence aren't as viablef on an island. Thus political arraignments tend to be stable.

I've read a book, way back in the '90s, so I can't remember the exact name anymore, that discusses the US Constitution as being uniquely prone to breakdown, as evidenced by the US Civil War. Its chief problem, besides all of the veto points, was the sheer difficulty of amendment. This resulted in an inflexible and failure prone document that's well out of date of current needs. As for Latin America, I think the traditional wars of land acquisition and the resulting high ginni coefficient drove preference for dictator or oligarchy friendly political systems. Parliamentary systems were just too democratic for most landowner of means' tastes in the Americas. Since I apparently agree with Robinson and Torvik, I oughta read that paper sometimes soon.

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