Metapolitical Explorations

Eli Dourado

Major Professor: Tyler Cowen, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Bryan Caplan, Robin Hanson

Carow Hall, Conference Room
November 28, 2016, 01:30 PM to 09:30 AM

Abstract:

What constrains the state? These essays explore different aspects of this question.

Chapter 1 focuses on the empirical finding that democracies and autocracies have similar policies. To explain this counterintuitive fact, I develop a model in which there is a more fundamental constraint than that embedded in the rules of politics. The predictions of the model with respect the degree of constraint match well with the institutional economics literature. The model can therefore add needed structure to existing institutional theories.

Chapter 2 examines the role of technology in constraining the state. As technology has advanced, so has the size and power of the sovereign state. Yet technology is often seen as undermining state power. This essay reconciles these observations with a theory of multidimensionality—some technologies simply increase output while others increase resistance to expropriation. I show that these characteristics appear to affect the degree of expropriation, which in turn affects the degree of investment in resistance to expropriation.

Finally, can the state be constrained from forming in the first place? Chapter 3 focuses on this question with respect to the literature on market anarchy. Previous work on market anarchy has focused on the costs of cooperation, which is a double-edged sword, allowing both the production of public goods as well as collusion between protection firms. Using the constraints developed in the first two chapters, I argue that the benefits of cooperation are both limited and must be taken into account. Market anarchy is stable when both constraints bind severely. While this condition does not describe contemporary society, it has prevailed in specific times and places and could reappear in the future.

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