Aristotle declared that there is a limit to the size of states: “a limit, as there is to other things, plants, animals, implements; for none of these retain their natural power when they are too large or too small, but they either wholly lose their nature, or are spoiled.” But really, what did he know? He lived at a time when the entire population of the world was somewhere around 50 million—about the size of England today. The total population of the separate Greek-speaking city states may have been eight million, and Athens, where he lived, considered a large city, would have been under 100,000 people. Limits? He couldn’t even imagine a world (ours) of 6.8 billion, a nation (China) of 1.3 billion, or a city (Tokyo) of 36 million. How is he going to help us?
He, at least, knew that there are limits:
Experience shows that a very populous city can rarely, if ever, be well governed; since all cities which have a reputation for good government have a limit of population. We may argue on grounds of reason, and the same result will follow: for law is order, and good law is good order; but a very great multitude cannot be orderly.
It doesn’t matter if that city is 1 million or 36 million—political entities at such sizes could certainly not be democratic in any sense, could not possibly function with anything approaching efficiency, and...