A geopolitical scholar and another economist agree: scale matters and smaller is better

From NYTimes writer Frank Jacobs: "Unless you’re North Korean or Lou Dobbs, you probably don’t think about your country’s borders every day.  Yet those borders — or at least their scope — can have a profound effect on how you think about your country and its place in the world. "It was precisely this problem of geopolitical girth that exercised the mind of Leopold Kohr, a 20th-century Austrian academic whose work inspired both modern political anarchism and the Green movement.

"After brilliant studies in law and political science at universities in Innsbruck, London and Vienna, in 1937 he became a freelance correspondent from the frontlines of the Spanish civil war.  He experienced first-hand the short-lived anarchist experiments in governance, in Catalonia and elsewhere in republican Spain.

"These brief flickers of an idealism that ran counter to an otherwise totalitarian age — crushed between the rock of Communism and the hard place of fascism — would continue to inspire Kohr’s writing and thinking.

"The guiding principle of Kohr’s work was, like that of his friend the economist E.F. Schumacher, 'Small is beautiful'.  His central work, The Breakdown of Nations, published first in Britain, in 1957, develops his theory of the optimal size of polities: smaller government should mean, first and foremost, a smaller area to govern.  In such smallness, greatness resides.

"'There seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness.'  Size was the root of all evil: 'Whenever something is wrong, it is too big.'  The answer was 'not union, but division'.  In other words: 'too big to fail' is a contradiction in terms.  The real solution is to make countries (and companies) too small to fail."  Full post here.