July 19, 2013

Anarchy, Philanthropy, and the Provision of Public Goods in a Free Society

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Abigail Hall

    Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Tampa
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Read the full paper at SSRN.com 

The provision of public goods is often used to justify the state. Since many highly-valued goods such as education, national defense, roads, etc., possess some public characteristics (i.e. non-rivalry and non-excludability), standard theory predicts such goods will be underprovided by private markets. The state is typically seen as the remedy to this problem. In contrast to this typical view, this paper analyzes the private provision of public and quasi-public goods in a free society. In particular, the authors examine philanthropy as an avenue through which such goods are already produced and may be provided in a society without a central government. We use Buchanan’s (1965) theory of clubs and Leeson’s (2011) discussion of clubs and “constitutional effectiveness” as a springboard to analyze how philanthropic giving and the provision of goods with public qualities under anarchy might work.