Ed Stringham presented his new edited book “Anarchy, State, and Public Choice” at today’s Austrian Scholar’s Conference. He introduced the work as a response to the Public Choice anarchist literature of the 60s and 70s which all seemed to share Buchanan’s pessimistic outlook for the potential for anarchy, the critical pieces of which are reprinted in the publication.
Also included in the work is Buchanan’s response upon reading the initial manuscript. Stringham’s presentation of Buchanan’s response was in itself rather pessimistic. I think instead that Buchanan’s brief comments in the text and at last week’s seminar are a resounding victory for the thesis of Stringham’s volume and in particular Boettke’s conception of Anarchism as a progressive research agenda.
In both his written and spoken remarks concerning the anarchist literature of the 60s and 70s, Buchanan contextualizes his pessimism as a response to the chaotic atmosphere of the academic institutions of the time. In seminar he recollected a department bombing during his brief stay at UCLA. It seemed hard to be optimistic in such conditions. But looking back now Buchanan, alludes to his stance of being pleasantly surprised, or as Fred noted above his backward looking optimism. Since Stringham’s goal as he presented it was to meet this pessimism head on, Buchanan’s response is a claim to victory for the young anarchists, that Buchanan has since updated such pessimism, and in turn takes up the Boettke/Stringham thesis of pushing forward the anarchist theoretical frontier to answer the problems that terrorism seems to inflict upon our modern economy. Though not nor I doubt ever a self-proclaimed anarchist, Buchanan claims the desperate need for a “hard-headed analysis of what terrorism might produce and how it might be fought by persons in a society that respects personal liberties.”
This post was also put up as a comment to Fred Sautet’s discussion of last week’s Buchanan seminar at The Austrian Economists.