Edited by Edward Stringham
Chapter 17: Tullock on Anarchy
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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