The Journal of Libertarian Studies

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Do Pessimistic Assumptions about Human Behavior Justify Government?

The Journal of Libertarian Studies

Tags Big GovernmentPhilosophy and MethodologyPolitical Theory

07/30/2014Benjamin PowellChristopher Coyne

Is government a necessary institution? To answer this question, many theorists begin with an account of a state of nature in which there are no “rules” or institutions to regulate human behavior. They then compare that state of nature with outcomes that are theoretically achieved with a monopoly rule enforcer—a government.

Volume 17, Number 4 (2003)


Contact Benjamin Powell

Benjamin Powell is the director of the Free Market Institute and a professor of economics in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Administration at Texas Tech University.

Professor Powell is the North American Editor of the Review of Austrian Economics, past president of the Association of Private Enterprise Education, and a senior fellow with the Independent Institute. He earned his B.S. in economics and finance from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. Prior to joining Texas Tech University, he taught economics at Suffolk University and San Jose State University.

Powell is the author of Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy (Cambridge University Press, 2014), editor of The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy (Oxford University Press, 2015), Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Development (Stanford University Press, 2008) and co-editor (with Randall G. Holcombe) of Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (Transaction Publishers, 2009). He is the author of more than 50 scholarly articles and policy studies. His primary fields of research are economic development, Austrian economics, and public choice. Prof. Powell's research findings have been reported in more than 100 popular press outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He also writes frequently for the popular press. His popular writing has appeared in Investor's Business Daily, The Financial Times (London), the Christian Science Monitor, and many regional outlets. He has appeared on numerous radio and television outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, Showtime, CNBC, and he has been a regular guest on FOX Business Network's shows Stossel and Freedom Watch.

Christopher Coyne

Christopher J. Coyne (born 1977) is the F.A. Harper Professor of Economics at George Mason University and the Associate Director of the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. He also serves as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Economics at GMU.

Cite This Article

Powell, Benjamin., and Christopher Coyne. "Do Pessimistic Assumptions about Human Behavior Justify Government?." Journal of Libertarian Studies 17, No. 4 (2003): 17–37.