A search is on for the right metaphor. What is the new role for government — a platform? a vending machine, into which we put money to extract services? a facilitator? And what, indeed, is the new role for us — the ones we’ve been waiting for?
That is the closing para of an intriguing discussion of the role of government now that the transaction costs of communicating/organizing and voting have been reduced.
The author has written in the context of more or less effective government and widespread Internet access. Is the argument different when those conditions do not hold?
If not for one task, governments are dispensable. We need them to deliver hardcore public goods. (Not issuing driving licenses, which may be outsourced soon, but providing national security) By definition, these have to be non exclusive and only govts can offer them through a mechanism funded by tax.
A paid service, by definition, is a private good and best left to be provided by the private sector or most through PPPs. So certainly govt is not a vending machine.
So a future govts will be more like nature – they don’t discriminate and provide services unobtrusively. The payment is not direct. You don’t pay for the air you breathe by volume, but contribute by spending an incremental amount to maintain your engine free of carbon emission.
Ideally a future govt will not ‘govern’ its citizens more than what nature does.