September, 2003

Do Pessimistic Assumptions About Human Behavior Justify Government?

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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The evolution from the state of nature to some form of social order has been a central question of political theory for centuries. Many writers begin their analysis of this situation by making pessimistic assumptions about man’s behavior in the state of nature. In doing so, they conclude that a centralized government is the best possible outcome. In this working paper, Coyne and Powell critically reconsider the models of the evolution of government, and the resulting social order, as put forth by Buchanan, and McGuire and Olson. In doing so, they analyze if the pessimistic assumptions prove that a centralized government is in fact superior to the state of nature.