Found in 6 comments on Hacker News
bordercases · 2021-07-02 · Original thread
The logic generalizes fairly well to the problems you have with all collective goods. Unless everyone acts optimally from the goodness of their hearts, which no one does, to shunt the load of producing the collective good, you need coercion, since at that point there is no individual incentive to contribute to a collective good if others are doing so.

This is true for unions and undergrad experiments, as it is for centralized planning states, which unsurprisingly are often oppressive dictatorships. If you want to eliminate the need for coercion (which bears long-running costs onto the state), you need to appeal to individual selfishness, which implies competition. As markets have their own problems, you ultimately need a mixed-economy state, something China has become despite its communist roots, and ditto the USA despite its uber-capitalism.

The economist Mancur Olson goes into this dynamic of collective action for Western states and beyond. He attempts to explain the general case of the rise and fall of efficiency in capitalist nations, as well as the outlier performance of some communist nations (all short-run) despite this model.

Cultural upbringing can make up some of the difference, but only in small scales or when the groups are tight-knit. Even in China, where on the surface Confucian culture totalizes the individual to the collective, there is also a culture of skillful deception and intrigue in Chinese politics that has flourished domestically and abroad in the 21st century.

dangoldin · 2018-04-15 · Original thread
For those interested in the theory of lobbying and special interest groups one of my favorite books is Mancur Olson's Rise and Decline of Nations ( It's an incredibly approachable read that does a wonderful job digging into the incentives and explains why lobbying exists and why it works.
crassus · 2013-11-18 · Original thread
Tianming. If some other system governs better than democracy, then we should use it.

As Moldbug points out, the current US Govcorp is structured as an employee collective[1][2], which no competitive corporation chooses as a system of organization in the free market. As Mancur Olson points out, bureaucracies tend to get more inefficient over time[3].

I know we've all been raised to believe that democracy is love and rainbows, but maybe it's time to rethink that.




mclin · 2010-09-01 · Original thread
Read Rise and Decline of Nations by Mancur Olson.

It explains this phenomenon. Basically, for a group of size n, members only get 1/n of the value they contribute towards any collective goal, so noone bothers, unless coerced, like with unions.

nazgulnarsil · 2010-01-20 · Original thread
the government as bandit hypothesis makes a lot of sense to me. at the least it explains where money came from (did not arise naturally from barter, was originally a tally for taxes and looting).

the article was tl;dr. did they at least cite mancur olsen for the stationary bandit hypothesis? AFAIK it originated in his book the rise and decline of nations:

dangoldin · 2009-10-03 · Original thread
Although a nice idea, it suffers from the fact that it would be very difficult to get that many people on the same page. Smaller groups are able to come to decisions much more quickly and will be able to move faster.

The lobbiest advantage is that they can afford to raise money quickly and be able to focus it on specific issues.

Although every citizen can together raise a ton of money, once that money is raised it will be very difficult allocating it.

Imagine if people had to come together in order to raise money for museums rather than relying on large individual contributions. It's likely that many fewer museums would exist.

For a deeper look at this I recommend reading the book by Mancur Olson - The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities. It takes a look at special interest groups and their effects on economic growth.

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