Ratio Working Papers
The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (as much as they do)
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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