Theoretical Perspectives, International Experience and Policy Reform
Studies in Fiscal Federalism and State–local Finance series
Edited by Santiago Lago-Peñas and Jorge Martinez-Vazquez
Chapter 3: Small is different: size, political representation and governance
In the theoretical literature on government design, few variables have received more attention than the size of the polity. Since Plato’s prediction that the optimal size of a political unit should be 5040 free citizens, the list of thinkers concerned about state size has included Aristotle, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and many of the founding fathers, among others. One of the fathers of modern political science, Robert Dahl, devoted great attention to what he called the elemental question of what is the appropriate unit for a democratic political system . . . Among the vast number of theoretically possible ways of dividing up the inhabitants of this globe into more or less separate political systems, . . . are there any principles that instruct us as to how one ought to bound some particular collection of people, in order that they may rule themselves? (Dahl 1967: 953)
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