The Size of Nations

My Wryside Economics talk on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program tomorrow is on “The Size of Nations”, a terrific book by Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore, which posits that country size is a tradeoff between the economic benefits of being big (economies of scale in public spending, large internal market) and the political costs of size (more heterogeneous interests to manage). If time permits, I’ll discuss why 100 countries have arisen in the past half-century, whether there should be more nations in Africa, the impact that free trade has on separatist movements, and whether Australia should merge with New Zealand.

Update: The audio file is here. Incidentally, the line of questioning didn’t quite permit me to mention how we chose the topic. It came about because of a quip that Richard made the last time, in which he mentioned the size of Greenland. A subsequent conversation with my mother got me thinking about whether economics had anything to say about the size of boundaries, which turned out to be a great excuse to read a book I’d heard a lot about.

One thought on “The Size of Nations”

    Leopold Kohr was strongly in favour of smaller nations.  I think his thesis was that above a certain size expansion of power, influence, territory, etc… became the driving force, not the welfare of the people.
    I would have thought that one of the problems small nations face is the shallowness of the leadership pool and the level of personal links between the main players (e.g. Iceland where a large fraction of the countries elites seem to be related either biologically or financially).


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