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 6: Towards a Theory of the Evolution of Government

J. Patrick Gunning

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


* J. Patrick Gunning Professor Bush recently presented a model which depicted an equilibrium for a social situation which begins in the Hobbesian jungle. In his model, he demonstrated that gains from trade would always exist unless theft and violence were reduced to a zero level. Consequently, the equilibrium that Bush established was one in which continuous tradings would reduce the level of these mutually undesirable activities to zero. Bush’s analysis leads one to believe that the Hobbesian jungle is a disequilibrium state in which the preferences and abilities are uncertain. The gradual reduction of the uncertainty through the learning experience will lead to the elimination of theft and extortion. Although there is nothing wrong with Professor Bush’s analytics, I believe that he omitted two very important aspects of the Hobbesian jungle. First, although it is true that for infinitely recurring contacts between two persons with given characteristics, certainty will emerge; it seems more realistic to assume that individuals will alter their characteristics as time passes. Secondly, and more to the point of this paper, contacts are not likely to be infinitely recurring. In both of these cases, the relevant problem concerns individuals’ attempts to cope with the continuing uncertainty about the behavior of others in potential mutually beneficial trading situations. The task of this paper is to explain the emergence of government by recognizing its role as a provider of the service of contract enforcement. Enforcements of contracts reduces the uncertainty of individuals in nonrecurring situations. I. A MODEL OF...

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