New PDF release: [Article] Policy autism or double-edged dismissiveness?

By Peter Christoff

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Your free-riding housemates enjoyed the clean kitchen, and that made you angry because y ou paid the pr ice and the y didn’t. Likewise, there are public goods produced by governments—such as parks, national defense, clean air and water, public beaches, traffic lights, and streetlights—that benefit anyone in the vicinity, even if he or she did not pay the taxes to produce those goods. If there is effective enforcement, however, public goods can be produced with fair systems of payment or contribution by all those who enjoy them.

A common feature of the various types of authoritarianism is the absence of an y expectation that the government represents the people. Furthermore, the institutions of government do not give the people a direct voice in choosing their leaders. The institutions within these countries, however, can be different. Some authoritarian countries are dictatorships, vesting sovereign power in one individual. For many decades until his death in 2011, Mu‘ammar Qaddafi ruled Libya uncontested as a dictator .

These stor ies help illustrate the need for go vernment. Some people argue that government is unnecessar y because member s of society can self-go vern by organizing acti vities that contr ibute to the common good. Most philos ophers and political theor ists, ho wever, disag ree. In the absence of go vernment, they argue, chaos reigns. Many would concur with Thomas Hobbes, the seventeenth-century English philosopher, who claimed that without a sovereign, society would become a “war of all against all.

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