Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
Chapter 4: The origins of the state
The plural form of the word origin used in the title of this chapter connotes the fact that all states did not come into existence in exactly the same way, and the important difference in the literature is between theoretical accounts of the origin of hypothetical states, which go back as far as Thomas Hobbes ( 1939) and the other contractarians, and positive analyses of how actual states have arisen. Because the chapter stresses the contributions of public choice to this question, more emphasis is given to the theoretical literature, both philosophical and political, than one might find in an essay written by an historian or political anthropologist. Some discussion of contributions from these scientific disciplines also is included, however. When discussing the origins of the state it is also important to identify the kind of state one has in mind. The bulk of the public choice literature focuses naturally enough on democratic states, since it is concerned with the public – citizens – making choices. Historically, the vast majority of states have been dictatorships, however, and even today roughly half of the world’s population continues to live under dictatorships of one form or another. Thus, both democratic and dictatorial states are discussed.
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