The Size of Nations

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $8.98
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 62%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (11) from $8.98   
  • New (6) from $16.31   
  • Used (5) from $8.98   


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.

Read More Show Less

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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262511872
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • 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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

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
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)