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Beyond Weak and Strong: Rethinking the State in Comparative Policy History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2009

Peter Baldwin
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
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Most public problems can be approached in many ways. Urban noise, the honking of car horns, for example, could be tackled by building effective mass transit and discouraging automobile use, by forbidding the use of horns within city limits and fining violators, by encouraging harmonious social circumstances, or at least stress-reduction education programs, to make drivers less aggressive, by developing horns that target sound waves only at offending motorists, or by encouraging everyone to wear noise-reduction earphones. The problem of sexually transmitted diseases can be solved by encouraging chastity and fidelity as virtues, by strictly criminalizing transmission, or by prescribing antibiotics after the fact. Such varying approaches are qualitatively different. They do not just reflect distinct degrees of statutory intervention. States that adopt divergent solutions may, in a similar fashion, be fundamentally different from one another, not just stronger or weaker versions of an abstract ideal of public authority.

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Copyright © The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 2005

References

Notes

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