Civil Society vs. Centralized Government

Civil Society can arise from either a) the absence of a centralized government; b) the predecessor of a more systematic form of government; c) its preconceived creation from a central government (or small group of individuals) think colonies or multinational NGOs.

Both the advantages and disadvantages of civil society can be reduced to its inefficiencies, or at least in reference to the variables that economists can measure and quantify.  One of these disadvantages are losses of economies of scale, which is negatively coorelated to the “optimum” size of a group of individuals (which is medium).


Example (1): Factory workers decide to create a union to gives themselves more leverage when asking for higher wages.  If this union encompasses one plant, these workers personally know eachother, understand the hardships occassionally faced by any given member, attend the same church, etc.  However, their bargaining range is severely limited if they just work for one factory out of many similar ones owned by a large corporation.  This large corporation can simply close down the plant and open another one in a more “labor friendly” area.

The union can expand in order to better their odds and the negotiation table.  However, this comes at a loss of some of the fundamental principles that created the organization.  It needs to hire a bureaucracy of individuals (who either once were labor members and grow desconnected, or already disconnected outsiders/ third parties) that will help create “efficiencies” in the organization that help them achieve greater leverage.

Wages might increase, but something else is lost: activism, dedication, and loyalty at the base level.  The goals of the union and the factory workers begin to coincide less and less.  Usually these variables are left unaccounted or are simply “recognized” in an error term or by a random variable.

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Examples (2): These factory workers with higher wages might satisfy themselves with material objects as opposed to interpersonal relationships that once founded their communties.  Without maintaining these ties and relationships, they disintergrate.  Older parents, no longer help out at home, they live for at a retirement home.  Instead the second spouse also works, from which they use their additional earnings to hire someone else to clean their home.  They do not worry about their maid’s well-being, because they are too busy living their own lives.  Their children depend on a school system for discipline, which still is prevented from actually enforcing disciplinary measures due to outdated educational policy.  You could add health and psychological negative externalities to the analysis.


The question of civil society also involves the debate between “individual” and “communitarian” rights.  Should a central government step in to protect the rights of 1% of the population against the tyranny of the majority?  A dynamic civil society already preempts the need.  Individuals are forced to be viligent in their associations to constantly analyze their positions on various topics.  They create webs of affliliations and allegiances in order to support what they want or counterweigh issues in which they disagree.

To the contrary, a centralized government does reduce “efficiencies” in thinking.  Or rather, people no longer have to think about the passing of a law, or a new environmental protection measure, because somebody else is doing it for them.  As they “think” less and less, the result is when they do think, they do so less efficiently than before.  Therefore, a lesser group of more informed individuals makes a “better” choice for the society.  Even if these smaller groups of individuals are a) “rational” (in whatever the accepted standard of this word would be) and b) utilitaristic (care for the “well-being” of the greatest number of individuals, (once again in whatever conventionally accepted standard of the term “well-being”) they definitely do have one serious [negative] externality:

The loss of individual “viligence” in defending and exploring topics that would normally be interesting without the guided action of a centralized authority. 

The price of liberty is eternal viligence.” -Thomas Jefferson


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