Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice.

Author:Edwards, Wayne
Position:Book review

Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice, edited by Edward P. Stringham. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. 2007. Trade paperback: ISBN 1 4128 2579 1, $39.95, 698 pages.

There is no mistaking the contents from the title of the book. Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice, collects, by all accounts for the first time on this scale, fundamental writings on non-state legal and political systems. The editor, Edward P. Stringham, draws from his own extensive research on the subject along with the input of other experts to compile a comprehensive collection of seminal and contemporary work on the subject. That no major collection of this sort has been published before is perhaps not a great surprise. After all, many people are likely to dismiss an idea like a market for police protection as absurd on its face. It is one thing to dislike the government and quite another to pine for its absence. Even Rousseau, after famously writing, "[m]an was born free, and he is everywhere in chains," and denying that anyone (and by extension, any institution) has the "natural" right of authority over others, went on to suggest that a social contract between an institutional authority and individuals was optimal. The total abandonment of government is a rare position to advocate, even for academics.

All of the writers in Anarchy and the Law sit far beyond Rousseau, so far so in fact that the obvious question is for whom has this book been prepared. Specialists, certainly, will find it extremely valuable, although they will be familiar with the bulk of its content. It is probably most useful, then, to those with a passing interest in the subject; those who would like to read up on it but do not intend to devote much time to a search for relevant work. Ultimately, however, to find this book interesting (and useful), all one truly needs is an open mind and a willingness to contemplate well constructed arguments.

The editor contributes a concise introduction to the book that...

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