Anarchy, State and Public Choice

Anarchy, State and Public Choice

New Thinking in Political Economy series

Edited by Edward Stringham

The book reprints the main articles from the 1972 volume Explorations in the Theory of Anarchy, and contains a response to each chapter, as well as new comments by Gordon Tullock, James Buchanan, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel and Peter Boettke. The younger economists are notably less pessimistic about markets and more pessimistic about government than their predecessors. Much of the new analysis suggests that private property rights and contracts can exist without government, and that even though problems exist, government does not seem to offer a solution. Might anarchy be the best choice after all? This provocative volume explores this issue in-depth and provides some interesting answers.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Edward Stringham

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice


Edward Stringham It is high time to shift out of the pragmatic mind-set that has been our national characteristic. The grand alternatives for social organization must be reconsidered. The loss of faith in the socialist dream has not, and probably will not, restore faith in laissez-faire. But what are the effective alternatives? Does anarchism deserve a hearing, and, if so, what sort of anarchism? James M. Buchanan1 1986 Nobel Laureate in Economic Science Most people do not even consider the idea that society can be organized without a state. Anarchism is simply too idealistic or too different from the current world. But does that prove that a stateless society is unworkable or that it should not be pursued? Or does that prove that most social order depends on the state? Throughout history, political structures have varied vastly over time, and just because a system was uncommon at one point in time does not mean that it can never come about. Tribalism, monarchism, socialism and democracy have all been tried. Why not anarchism? Perhaps civil society can be attained without government. Without considering all potential methods to organize society, one cannot determine the best system. Anarchists want their vision considered. Whereas Thomas Hobbes believed that a war of all against all characterizes anarchy, anarchists believe the opposite. Government is near-ubiquitous today, yet in the past century millions of people have been murdered by their own governments (Rummel, 1994). Perhaps government does not create order and instead does the opposite. Could it...