Robin, This is the first time that I have seen government involvement put into clear and concise lists.I enjoyed what you did by saying what are better or worst predictors of government involvement. It was quite insightful to place the connection between the innovation aspect of government and the predictions made by with ¨roads, water, sewer, track, parks¨.I would want to know what predicts less control, or what predicts less norms and unity. Thanks for this post. It will be great to see more progress on understanding individual predictors, and how as you said on the post, some can act as better predictors in some aspect of government but could act as worst predictors in another.

Expand full comment

Thanks; I added some of your suggestions.

Expand full comment

The is a fantastically useful framework! Great that you’ve included courts in hypocrisy - not sure why people miss this. One category error: you have a Show Unity category, but then in Show Off, you include unity in your description. Maybe take unity out of the Show Off description.

This error manifests itself with low sport.

Sports - Show Unity predicts more low sports. Think certain cities subsidising large franchises, or small towns and their high school football teams. I see that you’ve separated out high and low sports. I would say move low sports to Show Unity.

A few more areas of involvement:

Sex - Show off predicts less governmental involvement in this trade. Think business expenses in China, or tourists in Amsterdam and Thailand, or diplomats in Switzerland. For the US, think convention goers in Nevada. The opposite is also true for Peoples who want to ward off outsiders.

Agriculture - Variety predicts more.

Banking - Hypocrisy predicts more. The more socialists people want to appear, the more their government gets involved in (or nationalizes) banks, because greed itself never abates.

Gambling - Hypocrisy predicts more. Think lotteries. Or even the way the government is involved with gambling in places like Singapore or Nevada.

Alcohol & Narcotics - Norms predict more.

Citizenship - Norms predict more. Almost by definition.

Finally, what do you think about Currency? Most people would put Currency in Control. But I would suggest not. What about governments that use the Euro? Maybe they prove that Currency is really about Scale. After all, the 13 original colonies originally had their own currencies. That didn’t scale.

So how about Scale predicts more involvement with Currency?

Expand full comment

The production of art and news doesn't have scale economies, but the choice of which is most in fashion or most prestigious does. So I added those.

Expand full comment

Why do you list "art, entertainment, news" as not having scale? Distribution of information has the biggest returns of scale of anything, so a government might want to get in the business of distributing information and/or pick winners for the production of art, entertainment, and (non-local) news.

Except for the first item, all of these are the government accomplishing what the people want. Governments want taxes and patronage as well. I think that James C. Scott's idea of legibility fits in here somewhere, but maybe downstream of other abstractions.

Expand full comment

I don't agree with a lot of these descriptions.

On innovation, the two sectors that jump out the most to me for lack of innovation are education and housing both of which continue to regularly incorporate 19th century practices. In contrast the way we build roads and the ways we both purify and transport water have changed rather dramatically with the introduction of many new methods throughout the 20th century. I guess parks makes sense, but then we don't do much of anything with parks.

On variety, I don't like any of your low variety examples except roads. There's some level of standardization of schools and medicine within countries, but not between countries. Services I'd say that include little variety are cars, water, household appliances, and consumer computer hardware (laptops, phones, desktops, tablets).

Expand full comment

Ok, I'lll add.

Expand full comment

Religion seems like another obvious example for "show unity", historically. Though it broadens the category to showing that we have unified values, not only that we care about each other.

Expand full comment

Money is probably the greatest scale factor, along with standardization of weights and measures, Research is rather important to innovation, though innovation is favored for these. Absent is where interpersonal conflicts mostly develop due to lack of common understanding (a combination of norms, scale, and standards), contract law, adjudication, and the internalization of externalities,pollution, sanitation, public health, fire codes (more than just scale and unity)

Expand full comment