James Buchanan and Contractarian Anarchy
Journal of Prices & Markets 2(2) 2014: 48-58
16 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2013 Last revised: 16 Aug 2014
Date Written: September 11, 2013
This paper traces the normative side of James Buchanan’s individualist-subjectivist-contractarian position. The literature on anarchy and radical self-governance treats Buchanan’s position, and social contract theory more generally, as a rival rather than allied branch of analysis. However, I argue that Buchanan’s normative position, if taken to its logical conclusion, yields conclusions commensurate with anarchy. Buchanan’s theory of individual sovereignty suggests that political action is justified only to the extent that it adheres to a social contract that meets the requirements of conceptual unanimity. It also suggests individuals have the right to secede from communities they feel no longer adhere to the social contract. These beliefs form the foundation of a social contract theory deserving the label "anarchic."
Keywords: anarchy, Buchanan, federalism, individualism, secession, self-governance, social contract, sovereignty
JEL Classification: H1, H77, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation