- New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by Edward Stringham
Chapter 2: Individual Welfare in Anarchy
2. Individual welfare in anarchy* Winston Bush Anarchy as an organizing principle for society must appeal to anyone who places individual freedom high on his scale of values. In a basic sense, everyone is anarchist, in that he views all socially imposed restrictions on his own freedom of action as ‘bads,’ even if he may recognize these, or some of these, to be necessary costs of social harmony. It is not surprising that ‘anarchy’ and ‘anarchism’ have re-emerged as topics for discussion in the 1960s and the 1970s, as tentacles of government progressively invade private lives and as the alleged objectives of such invasions recede yet further from attainment. Social scientists must acknowledge the widespread current appeal of radical organizational alternatives, and they must cut through the excesses of revolutionary rhetoric and try to identify the common concern that much of it expresses. For this reason, if for no other, anarchy deserves to be seriously discussed, neither in romantic advocacy nor in pejorative attack, but with the most powerful tools of modern social analysis. Perhaps precisely because of the emotional overtones, the tools of modern economic analysis have not, to our knowledge, been applied to explain or to depict the general characteristics of an economy without laws or property rights.1 There are two quite different conceptions or models of individual behavior in genuine anarchy, that hypothetical state where no societal controls exist. We may label these as Hobbesian and Proudhonian. In Hobbes’ natural state, the absence of authority presents...
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