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Readings on Anarchy

February 16, 2011

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to talk to people who represent a wide range of disciplinary and ideological perspectives about ideas, even when it is only for a couple of minutes. Anarchy was a topic that came up today, and it is a subject that economists are exploring in fascinating detail. I’ve been revising my paper with Chris Coyne on the Memphis Riot of 1866, and it is convincing me that even the standard “externalities and public goods” rationales for the state are pretty weak.

Here are a couple of reading suggestions for anyone interested in learning more. I know I’m missing a lot, so feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments.

1. The working paper version of Benjamin W. Powell and Edward P. Stringham, “Public Choice and the Economic Analysis of Anarchy,” a survey article that appeared in Public Choice.

2. The Google Books entry for Edward Stringham’s edited volume Anarchy and the Law.

3. John Hasnas, “The Obviousness of Anarchy.”

4. Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State (with Power and Market).

5. Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty.

6. Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty.

7. Peter J. Boettke, “Anarchism as a Progressive Research Program in Political Economy.”

8. Ed Stringham and Todd Zywicki, “Hayekian Anarchism.”

9. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism.

10. The syllabus for Peter Leeson’s graduate course “Political Economy and Public Policy II,” which does pretty much all of the work I was about to do.

Anarchism is a dynamic and serious research program in political economy. Yesterday, William Easterly lampooned what he calls the “guy named Bob” theory of economic development; more generally, a lot of economic research could be criticized as contributing to a “guy named Bob” theory of public policy: somewhere, there is someone named Bob who will flawlessly and perfectly implement our schemes. The research program in the political economy of anarchy is teaching us that Bob probably isn’t there. Happy reading, and again, if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.

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