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No 31:
The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (as much as they do)

Daniel Klein ()

Abstract: Using Schelling’s analysis of mutual coordination and focal points, I interpret Smithian sympathy as sentiment coordination. When the yearning for sentiment coordination seeks, further, for it to encompass the whole social group and looks naturally to government for the focal points, we have The People’s Romance. This yearning for encompassing sentiment coordination asserts itself by denying individual self-ownership. Government activism and coercion become romantic ends in themselves. The People’s Romance is evident in the writings of communists, social democrats, and others who champion the achieving of a “common understanding,” “common endeavor,” or “shared experience.” The People’s Romance helps to explain a wide variety of political and cultural puzzles. I explore whether The People’s Romance can be compatible with classical liberal goals and values, and conclude in the negative.

Keywords: Sentiments; coordination; collectivism; statism; coercion; liberty; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: Z00; (follow links to similar papers)

46 pages, February 9, 2004, Revised May 11, 2005

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This paper is forthcoming as:
Klein, Daniel, 'The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (as much as they do)', The Independent Review (www.independentreview.org).

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