Sunday, June 12, 2011

Culture of Anarchy with Kevin Dowd

Anarchy, Warfare, and Social Order:
Comment on Hirshleifer
Kevin Dowd
Shefield Hallam University
In a recent article in this Journal, Hirshleifer (1995) sought to provide
an economic analysis of anarchy and, in particular, of the circumstances
in which anarchy would break down into other forms
of social order. He did so by setting out an economic model of conflict
and then investigating the stability of the resulting conflict equilibrium.
The problem with this approach is that it deals only with a
particular form of anarchy (i.e., one in which disputes are settled
by violence). But not all anarchies are violent. Hirshleifer's article
thus fails to consider peaceful anarchy. Yet peaceful anarchy is important
for two reasons: (1) The parties involved in disputes have
incentives, often strong ones, to resolve them by peaceful means,
and there is no necessary reason why they should rely on the state
to do so. A natural outcome is then an anarchy characterized by a
preponderance of peaceful over violent conflict resolutions and by
the absence of any "authority" to impose order. Conflict and anarchy
are consequently not the same. (2) There are many historical
examples of peaceful anarchy. They include, among others, the Law
Merchant that governed mercantile dealings in medieval Europe
and the relatively peaceful private order that arose in the western
frontier of the United States in the late nineteenth century. In short,
anarchy is not as conflict-prone or fragile as Hirshleifer's treatment
might lead one to believe.
The Costliness of Conflict and the Emergence
of Peaceful Social Order
If conflict is costly, the parties involved have some incentive to seek
alternative means of resolving disputes. Instead of fighting, they
I thank Jack Hirshleifer and an anonymous referee for helpful comments. The
usual caveat applies.
[Journal ofPolitira1 Economy, 1997, vol. 105, no. 31
O 1997 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0022-3808/97/0503-0005$01.50
might therefore develop rules among themselves as to who owns
what. Agreement on such rules might be particularly plausible in
circumstances in which the parties in dispute regularly meet each
other (e.g., to trade). Parties in dispute could also seek arbitration.
The arbitrator would judge the case by a set of agreed rules (e.g.,
as regards property rights), and arbitration would be made effective
by the threat of sanction against a losing party who subsequently
refused to abide by the outcome. This sanction might involve the
forfeiture of a preposted bond, social or economic ostracism, or the
removal of legal rights (e.g., being outlawed) .'Over time, the rules
applied by the arbitrators would evolve into a form of customary law,
and the arbitrators themselves would become private judges. The
desire to economize on conflict costs provides a driving force for
the evolution of a private system of law and order, and this system
sustains itself because the parties involved benefit from the reduction
in violent conflict, the protection afforded to them by a legal
system, and the greater social and economic well-being that this system
of law makes possible.
Hirshleifer acknowledges that agents may be influenced in a
peaceful direction by the benefits of economic cooperation. He also
acknowledges that actual violence might sometimes be avoided by
threats.* However, instead of seeing the cost of conflict as the spur
to more peaceful arrangements, he implicitly rules them out by insisting
that they would require a "superior authority" to keep order:
''Fighting is of course Pareto-inefficient. All parties could always benefit
from an agreed peaceful resolution, but under anarchy there is
no superior authority to enforce any such agreement" (p. 28, n. 4).3
'There is a very large literature on these private legal systems (e.g., Tannehill
and Tannehill 1970; Wooldridge 1970; Friedman 1973; Rothbard 1978; Benson
1990). There are also a number of specific historical and anthropological case studies
mentioned later.
TO do justice to Hirshleifer, one must also bear in mind that he focuses on the
properties of violent social order, and I have no argument with his analysis of violent
order as such. Indeed, I strongly agree with his principal result, namely that violent
social order tends to be fragile and to dissolve into other forms of social order. One
can only add that peaceful anarchy should also be regarded as one of the alternative
forms of social order into which violent conflict dissolves.
Hirshleifer also rules out peaceful anarchy elsewhere. For example, on p. 29, he
considers the circumstances under which anarchy can break down into amorphy
(or disorder), on the one hand, or some form of tyranny or social control on the
other, but he does not even mention the possibility of peaceful anarchy as an alternative.
Again, on p. 48, he acknowledges that there may be scope for cooperation but
then suggests that this cooperation poses the "collective-action problem" of "how
to get agreement on a social contract and, even more important, how to enforce
it," which again ignores the possibility that private agents might enforce their own
For Hirshleifer, there are only two possible forms of social order: a
conflict equilibrium, which he tends to identify with anar~hya,n~d
a social order imposed by some higher authority. The alternative of
a peaceful anarchy is not considered.
Historical Examples of Peaceful Anarchy
Yet peaceful (or relatively peaceful) anarchy not only is conceivable
and plausible but also is a form of social order of which there are
many historical examples (e.g., medieval Ireland [Peden 19771,
Anglo-Saxon England [Benson 1990, pp. 21-27], and the Law Merchant
[Wooldridge 1970; Trakman 1983; Benson 19901). A good
example is the Law Merchant, the code of international mercantile
law that arose from the efforts of individual merchants to trade with
each other. When conflicts arose, merchants needed speedy but fair
means of resolving disputes. To meet this need, merchant courts
arose to adjudicate disputes, and they did so by reference to an evolving
body of customary mercantile law:
Merchants made their courts work simply by agreeing to
abide by the results. The merchant who broke the understanding
would not be sent to jail, to be sure, but neither
would he long continue to be a merchant, for the compliance
exacted by his fellows, and their power over his goods,
proved if anything more effective than physical coercion.
Take John of Homing, who made his living marketing
wholesale quantities of fish. When John sold a lot of herring
on the representation that it conformed to a three-barrel
sample, but which, his fellow merchants found, was actually
mixed with "sticklebacks and putrid herring," he made
good the deficiency on pain of economic ostracism. The
system worked. [Wooldridge 1970, p. 961
In some respects, an even better example is the U.S. West during
the later nineteenth century. Most people regard the West as a classic
example of violent anarchy, and the advocate of anarchy can
I say "tends to" because there is some ambiguity in what Hirshleifer understands
the term "anarchy" to mean. Most of the time he interprets anarchy as violent
conflict. The clearest such definition is given on p. 27, where he states that "anarchy
is a social arrangement in which contenders struggle to conquer and defend durable
resources, without effective regulation by either higher authorities or socialpressures"
(italics added). The interpretation of anarchy as warfare is also borne out by his use
of the economics of conflict to model it and also by the various historical illustrations
he gives. However, on p. 26 he also defines anarchy as a "spontaneous order in the
sense of Hayek," a definition that is suggestive of a peaceful anarchy rather than a
violent one.
hardly argue that the violent gunslingers of the period would have
been easily tamed by the comparatively mild economic penalties of
the medieval Law Merchant. Yet, contrary to popular belief, the West
was not the land of wild lawlessness and social disorder of Hollywood
legend. People demanded law and order, and private institutions
arose to ensure that they got it. They included, on occasion, vigilance
committees of concerned citizens, who tried cases and carried out
sentences in accordance with prevailing legal custom (see, e.g., Benson
1990, pp. 312-21). As Anderson and Hill (1979, p. 10) observed
in their study of the "wild" West,
property rights were protected and civil order prevailed.
Private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly
society in which property was protected and conflicts were
resolved. These agencies did not qualify as governments
because they did not have a legal monopoly on "keeping
order." They soon discovered that "warfare" was a costly
way of resolving disputes and lower cost methods of settlement
(arbitration, courts, etc.) resulted.
Indeed, another historian went so far as to say that the western frontier
was "a far more civilized, more peaceful and safer place than
American society today" (Hollon 1974, p. x).Anarchy would appear
to be more attractive than is commonly thought.
Anderson, Terry, and Hill, P. J. "An American Experiment in Anarcho-
Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West." J. Libertarian Studies 3 (Spring
1979): 9-29.
Benson, Bruce L. The Enterprise of La&: Justice without the State. San Francisco:
Pacific Research Inst. for Public Policy, 1990.
Friedman, David D. The Machinq of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism.
New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1973.
Hirshleifer, Jack. "Anarchy and Its Breakdown." J.P.E. 103 (February 1995):
Hollon, W. Eugene. Frontier Violence: Another Look. New York: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1974.
Peden, Joseph R. "Property Rights in Celtic Irish Law."J. Libertarian Studies
1 (Spring 1977): 81-95.
Rothbard, Murray N. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Rev. ed.
New York: Collier, 1978.
Tannehill, Morris, and Tannehill, Linda. The Market for Liberty. Lansing,
Mich.: privately published, 1970.
Trakman, Leon E. The Law Merchant: TheEuolution of Commercial Law. Littleton,
Colo.: Rothman, 1983.
Wooldridge, William C. Unck Sam, the Monopoly Man. New Rochelle, N.Y.:
Arlington House, 1970.

Works Cited:
The Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK 1976 BMI

Charles Case McDermott meshes with punk band Anti-Flag March 29, 2006 
Greg Graffin A Punk Manifesto Bad Times 12/98
Jessica Rosenberg; Gitana Garofalo Riot Grrrl: Revolution from within

Seth Kahn-Egan Interchanges Punk Comp and Beyond Pedagogy of the Pissed: Punk Pedagogy in the First-Year classroom

Dead Kennedys Where do you draw the line? 1986 Decay Music

W. Philips Shively The Craft of Political Research

Daniel S. Traber L.A.’s “White Minority”: Punk and the Contradictions of Self-Marginalization”

George Berger, The Story of Crass (Omnibus Press, 2006)
The Exploited I Believe in Anarchy from Punk’s Not Dead 1981

Craig Turnwall, The apparent indeterminable classification of counterculture: An essay on punk culture and thought

Craig O'Hara, The Philosophy of Punk, AK Press, 1999

William Tsitsos, Rules of Rebellion: Slamdancing, Moshing, and the American Alternative Scene, Oct., 1999 Cambridge University Press

Geoffrey Sirc,  Never Mind the Tagmemics, Where's the Sex Pistols? College Composition and Communication > Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 9-29

pattrice jones, Stomping with the Elephants Igniting a Revolution: Voices in defense of the Earth, Edited by Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II 2006, AK Press. (pattrice jones publicly insists on publishing her name in lowercase letters)

Thomas R. Dye, Understanding Public Policy. 11th Edition, 2005 Pearson Prentice Hall

Michael Donnelly Operational Backfire Criminalizing Dissent

United States Attorney District of Oregon Department of Justice.

Secret Grand Jury investigations have led to indictments of 12 Indy Media, http// (Author unknown)

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez,

Robert S. Mueller,

Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild,

David Cunningham, The Pattering of Repression: FBI Counterintelligence and the New Left Social Forces Vol. 82, No. 1 (Sep., 2003, pp. 209-240

The United States Patriot Act,

Cindy C. Combs, Terrorism in the Twenty-first Century, 2nd Edition 1999 Prentice Hall Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458

28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)

‘Children of Men’ sends stark message By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY  Updated 12/21/2006

A haunting view of the end Mary F. Pols Contra Costa Times
Published: Monday, December 25, 2006 movies: Reviews of the latest films.

The Movie of the MillenniumAlfonso CuarĂ³n's fantastic Children of Men.
By Dana Stevens Posted Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, at (

 28 Weeks Later (Danny Boyle 2007)

^ Neon Magazine (1996-12). Retrieved on 2007-01-18.

^ Sight and Sound (1996-04). Retrieved on 2007-01-18.

^ Copyright Casebook: 12 Monkeys - Universal Studios and Lebbeus Woods. Retrieved on 2006-06-21.




No comments:

Post a Comment