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12/06/2012

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Thanks, TanGeng, for this challenging read.

I can read only so much, and your distinction between agrarian and nomadic just catches me unaware. I had simply assumed that the neolithic revolution (introduction of agriculture) was the precondition for the emergence of state structures - but have hardly thought about the relationship between agrarian and nomadic societies?

One of the more interesting findings of my recent research is: the (especially libertarian) propensity to consider the state as being evil ab ovo (from its very origin) and of necessity does not hold water.

The state developed as part and parcel of an early (then highly revolutionary) social technology called (communal) property, which was required to overcome the shortcomings of the preneolithic open access world with its concurrent forms of unsustainable resource waste.

People had no choice but to experiment with what I call maximum power structures (MPS), simply to be able to survive, and possibly improve their lifes all along. Moral assessments of the state had to await the state's experimental emergence, and had to develop with the very phenomenon under investigation.

And these are just a few of the many, many threads that we need to disentangle before we can hope to come closer to a valid assessment of the modern state.

The two best authors on the issue are the phenomenal American economic historian Douglas C. North (e.g. "Structure and Change in Economic History" and "The Rise of the Western World", whose economic histories of the US I'd love to read some day) and Itai Sened ("The Political Institution of Private Property"
which is so far the best theory of the state that I have come across).

All in all, it is amazing how little good stuff there is on the state, and I increasingly feel that I have to develop my own theory of the state simply because there is no better theory. Which is not so much a matter of praising me rather than complaining about the social sciences.

The theme has become trivialised, I suspect, because there are only two factions, those to whom it is self-evident that the state is an abomination, and those who either simply take it for granted and/or idolise it.

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