Anarchy or Not?

Does God exist? Is anarchy desirable? The two sorts of question are obviously different and only on the second one does economics have something instructive to say. In the Winter issue of Regulation, I review Michael Huemer’s recent book Knowledge, Reality, and Value: A Mostly Common Sense Guide to Philosophy, but this also served as an excuse for reviewing his 2012 The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey. The latter argues that the government has no moral authority to do anything that ordinary individuals may not do and that nobody has a moral obligation to obey the government just because it is a government; the book also presents an economic defense of anarcho-capitalism. Both books are well worth reading.

Consequentialism, utilitarianism, and deontology are among the topics that, following (and sometimes opposing) Huemer, my review discusses.

My current, provisional, incomplete conclusion on anarchy:

The jury is still out on anarchy, and it will remain out until an actual experiment is realized. Perhaps classical liberalism or non‐anarchist libertarianism is as far as we can go toward anarchy? In his 1969 book Éloge de la société de consommation (In Praise of Consumer Society), French philosopher Raymond Ruyer suggested as much: “Real anarchism, feasible and realized … is simply the [classical] liberal economy.” Certainly, we should at least aim to maintain or recover the “feasible and realized anarchy” and push the limits of classical liberalism. The ideal is anarchy, not authority.