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 5: Social Interaction without the State

Christopher Coyne

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


* Christopher Coyne Any society of force – whether ruled by criminal bands or by an organized State – fundamentally means the rule of the jungle, or economic chaos. Murray N. Rothbard, Power and Market: Government and the Economy Social order is perhaps the most enduring issue in the social sciences. Thirty years ago Gordon Tullock analyzed this problem in ‘The edge of the jungle’ (1972), an essay in which he explores social interaction without the state as well as the evolution of the state as a necessity for the facilitation of social interaction. Tullock begins by accepting Winston Bush’s (1972) postulate that in ‘genuine anarchy’ two patterns of individual behavior may arise. One possibility is the Hobbesian jungle in which, without a central authority, individuals can either expend their energy on the production of goods or simply take goods from others by force. The second possibility reflects the Proudhonian notion that in the absence of social rules, individuals will develop their natural talents and live in harmony. Besides accepting these notions of anarchy, Tullock makes several modifications. He acknowledges the possibility of ‘cooperative organizations’ that may engage either in peaceful interaction or in fighting with other groups or individuals. Moreover, he postulates that individuals or groups will not trade when the stronger can simply take from the weaker. In this article, I first clarify the meaning of anarchy. I then argue that Tullock’s concept of anarchy is flawed and that it leads to an inaccurate analysis of law without the state. Next,...

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