What Does It Mean to Govern?

Source: EconLog
by Pierre Lemieux

“When a politician declares that he is ‘ready to govern,’ what does he mean by ‘govern?’ The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the verb ‘to govern’ came from a French word and first appeared in English in the 14th century. In its intransitive form, it meant ‘to direct or control the actions and affairs of a people or place’ … What we may call the naive conception of governing sees it as a way to please everybody, to make everybody happier. But it is not obvious how individuals with different preferences, values, and circumstances can all be made happier by the government’s decisions and policies. Moreover, how are the rulers incentivized to be benevolent angels? What we know from history shows the opposite.” (07/06/24)