Jeff Riggenbach has a good audio review of Yale anthropologist James C. Scott’s recent book The Art of Not Being Governed. Riggenbach states, “This book seems to have attracted no attention at all from libertarians. Yet this is a book libertarians with an enthusiasm for history will find very very interesting indeed.”
Riggenbach is right that this book is well worth reading. And the book is being highlighted in a forthcoming symposium edited by Chris Coyne in the Review of Austrian Economics. Contributors include Benjamin Powell and Malavika Nair. In “Repelling states: Evidence from upland Southeast Asia,” Caleb Miles and I discuss some of the lessons that can be learned from Scott’s anarchist history of Asia. We focus on how the people in upland Southeast Asia successfully repelled states. This history provides an answer to libertarian pessimists who wonder whether the state can ever be avoided. Here is the abstract:
Although many economists recognize the existence of stateless orders, economists such as Cowen, Sutter, and Holcombe question how viable stateless orders are in the long run. Research documenting the historical existence of stateless societies is much more developed than our understanding of whether societies can successfully remain free of states. This article analyzes historical and anthropological evidence from societies in Southeast Asia that have avoided states for thousands of years. The article provides an overview of some of their customary legal practices and then describes the mechanisms that they use to avoid, repel, and prevent would-be states. Such stateless societies have successfully repelled states using location, specific production methods, and cultural resistance to states. A better understanding of these mechanisms provides a potential explanation for how such societies remained free of states for long periods of time.
How did people successfully live free of government for millennia? Find out here.