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 17: Tullock on Anarchy

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

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


Jeffrey Rogers Hummel Gordon Tullock’s rebuttal offers up a muddle of both profoundly serious and amazingly silly objections to a stateless society. Many of them rest on a common but unreflective identification of government with law. Concerns about private roadways, quarantine for disease, the electromagnetic spectrum, the spread of fires, other frequent nuisances, and above all ultimate enforcement fall into this category. In all these cases, Tullock refuses to come to grips with one of the libertarian anarchist’s central insights: a monopoly state is not a necessary precondition for uniform law to prevail. Consider the USA, Canada and the UK. An intricate legal network peacefully resolves disputes not only between those three countries but also between their respective residents, and has done so since 1816, without any world government enforcing the decisions. International anarchy does not always produce such happy results, a point upon which Tullock pounces and to which I shall return. The frequency of civil wars, however, attests that a government is no absolute guarantee of legal peace either. Few libertarian anarchists have ever questioned that protecting property and upholding contracts sometimes requires force. But they deny that such force must emanate from a coercive monopoly. Competing private agencies will suffice. Tullock’s first paragraph acknowledges the anarcho-capitalist belief that ‘force would be needed to defend both against ordinary criminals and possibly foreign countries’ so long as it is ‘provided privately rather than through government’. Yet this recognition mysteriously slips Tullock’s mind when he gets to concretes. Suddenly anarchists...

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