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The Size of Nations

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Overview

The authors of this timely and provocative book use the tools of economic analysis to examine the formation and change of political borders. They argue that while these issues have always been at the core of historical analysis,international economists have tended to regard the size of a country as "exogenous," or no more subject to explanation than the location of a mountain range or the course of a river. Alesina and Spolaore consider a country's borders to be subject to the same analysis as any other man-made institution. In The Size of Nations, they argue that the optimal size of a country is determined by a cost-benefit trade-off between the benefits of size and the costs of heterogeneity. In a large country, per capita costs may be low, but the heterogeneous preferences of a large population make it hard to deliver services and formulate policy. Smaller countries may find it easier to respond to citizen preferences in a democratic way.Alesina and Spolaore substantiate their analysis with simple analytical models that show how the patterns of globalization, international conflict, and democratization of the last two hundred years can explain patterns of state formation. Their aim is not only "normative" but also "positive" — that is, not only to compute the optimal size of a state in theory but also to explain the phenomenon of country size in reality.

They argue that the complexity of real world conditions does not preclude a systematic analysis, and that such an analysis, synthesizing economics, political science, and history, can help us understand real world events.

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Editorial Reviews

EH.NET - Leonard Dudley
This book is a tour de force...
Foreign Affairs
This intriguing study by two political economists seeks to discover an economic logic behind the size of nations.
From the Publisher
"This book is a tour de force..." Leonard Dudley EH.NET

"This intriguing study by two political economists seeks to discover an economic logic behind the size of nations." Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs
The question of whether there is an "optimal size" for nation-states has long intrigued scholars, and the European Union's ongoing expansion makes it of more than passing interest. This intriguing study by two political economists seeks to discover an economic logic behind the size of nations. Their approach is rationalist and deductive, based on the costs and benefits of holding more or less territory. Large states may benefit from increased productivity, lower per capita costs for public goods, and more troops to defend themselves, but they also must deal with greater cultural and political variety. Alesina and Spolaore, surveying historical data on size and economic performance, discuss these as tradeoffs that states make at critical historical moments. Most of their findings are not surprising — for example, that globalization reduces the advantages of size. Nor is their message to Europe startling: it should centralize authority where economic integration is possible and decentralize authority where cultural and political preferences diverge. But ultimately, what is most striking about the proliferation of states in the twentieth century is how little impact such economic considerations have had.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262511872
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,399,468
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Alberto Alesina is Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economics at Harvard University. He is the coauthor (with Enrico Spolaore) of The Size of Nations (MIT Press, 2003).

Enrico Spolaore is is Professor of Economics at Tufts University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 Overlapping Jurisdictions and the State 17
3 Voting on Borders 31
4 Transfers 53
5 Leviathans and the Size of Nations 69
6 Openness, Economic Integration, and the Size of Nations 81
7 Conflict and the Size of Nations 95
8 War, Peace, and the Size of Nations 111
9 Federalism and Decentralization 137
10 Size and Economic Performance 155
11 The Size of Nations: A Historical Overview 175
12 The European Union 203
13 Conclusions 217
Notes 225
References 241
Index 255
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