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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: May 2020

12 - Intervention

from Part II - Scale Effects


In Chapter 12, we explain the course of public policy – specifically, the degree to which governments intervene in citizens’ social and economic affairs. We argue that scale is negatively related to the level of government intervention through decreased social cohesion, representativeness and trust, particularism, and concentration, and through increased economies of scale. We also discuss the role of trade dependence, which we argue likely has ambivalent (countervailing) effects on intervention. In the empirical section, we turn to a variety of empirical terrains including the growth of the American state, the experience of small states (everywhere), and four policy realms – moral, fiscal, personnel, and social. Our results point to a stark contrast between subnational and national-level analyses. While subnational analyses show either a negative relationship between scale and intervention, or no relationship at all, national-level analyses show a strong (negative) relationship between the size of communities and the size of government. This apparent paradox has many possible answers, and so we leave it for future research to tease apart which factor(s) might be responsible.

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