Has government ever played a truly significant role in historical events, or does it mostly rubberstamp things that nongovernmental entities would do anyway?

After all, Manorialism was a social safety net very similar to the modern welfare state. As an example, was the transition ftom feudalism to liberalism a key event in world history, or were the freedoms serfs won gradual change that mostly had to do with economic and demographic factors unrelated to politics?

  • 1
    This strikes me as a matter of perspectives. The government often were the biggest interest group around. – Semaphore Feb 24 '16 at 21:16
  • 1
    What is the difference between government playing a role and government as the tool by which interest groups play a role? – Mark C. Wallace Feb 24 '16 at 22:51
  • 1
    I have to say, your second paragraph expresses a dualisim between the people and the government that is at odds with the dominant (Classical) Liberal view of government. To someone such as myself brought up under that view, the difference between "people acting in concert" and a "government" is merely one of semantics. – T.E.D. Feb 24 '16 at 22:53
  • 2
    Hallucination with a monopoly on the use of force. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 24 '16 at 23:50
  • 2
    Can we put a pin in this nonsense? If this fellow wants an aimless political discussion there a lot of places for that, which aren't here. – Ne Mo Feb 25 '16 at 15:40

One of the arguments Barbara Tuchman makes in The March of Folly was that England's loss of its North American colonies in the American Revolution was chiefly due to how their Parliamentary system was working at the time. Basically, it was easier for individual members to get re-elected with tough talk than to argue that it might be better to reach some accommodation with the colonists.

Even without that argument, if you read some of the prewar documents on both sides its pretty clear that the base of the disagreement was over government, and if some arrangement like the Dominion system had been offered early enough, it would have almost certainly been found acceptable.

  • The end result was America adopting a very minimal state for decades until the rise of interest group politics. One could say that government mattered, in a way, but only because of foregone possibilities. – D J Sims Feb 24 '16 at 21:51
  • Hamilton and Washington would disagree about the minimal state. And Jefferson was just as much an interest group as any other; the Democratic Republicans wanted to create a nation of slavery, deficit spending, anti-British, pro-French aristocrats. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 24 '16 at 22:52
  • But elections in the early US "state" were decided by which party supplied the most alcohol to voters. – D J Sims Feb 24 '16 at 23:45

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.