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Noah Smith

Make Good Government, Not War

War, and the resulting innovations, often drive economic growth. Good government can have a similar effect.
An awful price to pay for economic growth.                                                           
An awful price to pay for economic growth.                                                           

"War made the state, and the state made war," historian Charles Tilly famously wrote. Why would kings and chieftains build roads and schools and fair legal systems for their people, or give their people property rights, when they could just plunder and pillage instead? Tilly's answer: because of war. More productive citizens mean a richer country and more war-fighting potential. Gross domestic product wins wars and keeps the local top dogs on top.

There was an echo of Tilly in a recent New York Times column by economics blogger Tyler Cowen: