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 8: Before Public Choice

James M. Buchanan

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


* James M. Buchanan A contact theory of the State is relatively easy to derive, and careful use of this theory can yield major explanatory results. To an extent at least, a ‘science’ exists for the purpose of providing psychologically satisfying explanations of what men can commonly observe about them. Presumably, we ‘feel better’ when we possess some explanatory framework or model that allows us to classify and interpret disparate sense perceptions. This imposition of order on the universe is a ‘good’ in the strict economic sense of this term: men will invest money, time, and effort in acquiring it. The contract theory of the State, in all of its manifestations, can be defended on such grounds. It is important for sociopolitical order and tranquility that ordinary men explain to themselves the working of governmental process in models that conceptually take their bases in cooperative rather than in noncooperative behavior. Admittedly and unabashedly, the contract theory serves, in this sense, a rationalization purpose or objective. We need a ‘logic of law,’ a ‘calculus of consent,’ a ‘logic of collective action,’ to use the titles of three books that embody modern-day contract theory foundations.1 Can the contract theory of the State serve other objectives, whether these be normative or positive in character? Can institutions which find no conceivable logical derivation in contract among cooperating parties be condemned on other than strictly personal grounds? Can alleged improvements in social arrangements be evaluated on anything other than contractarian precepts, or, to...

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