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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Peaceful Anarchy Fails

Arnold Kling:
"The conventional view, which I share, is that peaceful anarchy is insufficiently stable. It gives way to warlordism. Warlordism means a situation in which there is no rule of law. A warlord rules by rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies.

In my view, it only takes one warlord to break up a peaceful anarchy. Once one warlord becomes successful, then it is easy for a second warlord to recruit followers, because people either envy or fear the followers of the first warlord. This process continues until everyone is driven to follow warlords.

To break a warlord equilibrium, you need government. That is the Hobbesian solution--a Leviathan that is capable of suppressing the 'war of all against all.'

Government is flawed, because it creates opportunities for rent-seeking. But I will take my chances on the ability of checks, balances, and corruption-fighting institutions to limit rent-seeking. I would not want to risk a descent into warlordism."
For those of you in Economic Freedom, this is a really nice explanation of why Rothbard's position on government's role as the protective state is utopian. For those of you who are in Economic Freedom and also took Power and Prosperity, why didn't we think of this?

Didn't we? While the exact term warlord was not used (that I can recall) Olson's roving bandits (I believe) encompasses warlords. Thus I think that Olson shows both where Rothbard is Utopian, and where Arnold Kling is slightly off track in his call for a Leviathan.

Kling sees political economy as a battle of two sides, while Olson saw it as a creation from anarchy to a constitutional government (that might be a little too specific for Olson but you get the idea). A good example of this is that Kling thinks that there is a "warlord equilibrium" would exist, but wouldn't Olson see this as one stage on the path to representational government?

This is fascinating, but my opportunity cost is just too high to continue right now (final's and all). If anyone thinks this discussion is interesting I will pick it back up after semester ends.
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