Starving the Leviathan: Balanced Budget Prescriptions before Keynes

  • William Breit
  • Donald F. Gordon
  • E. G. West
Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 1)


In his magisterial account of medicine in the ancient world, pathologist Guido Majno concluded that many nostrums and remedies for wounds prescribed by our primitive ancestors seemed to work although they did so for reasons that are not apparent on the surface. In many other aspects of their behavior, seemingly irrational practices are only later discovered to have had silent merit. One inscrutable activity was that of burning the skeleton of animals, treating the resulting configurations made in the charred remains as a map, and renewing the hunt the next day according to the patterns on the shoulder bone. Our ancestors believed that the gods showed them where to hunt through magic. But the real merit of this nonsense was that over-hunting in any single part of the territory was prevented. Their method randomized the hunt in a way that could not be improved upon by the modern computer. Thus they achieved long-run practical results that from their vantage point seemed magical.1


Fiscal Policy Government Spending Public Debt Balance Budget Custom Duty 
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Copyright information

© H. E. Stenfert Kroese B.V., Leiden 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Breit
  • Donald F. Gordon
  • E. G. West

There are no affiliations available

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