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Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life 1st Edition
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"Stringham's thesis is thought provoking. He argues it well and provides a number of case studies that illustrate clearly how private governance succeeded when most people would expect it to fail."
Ethics and Culture Blog
"Stringham is to be commended for his bold and wonderfully-argued thesis, and for the research that he has done in supporting his claims. This book is a delight to read, is packed with accessible and fascinating information, is confident enough to tweak the noses of the Left and is a recommended - required - read for anyone interested in the beauty of spontaneous order, far removed from the shadow of the state."
The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics
"Private Governance is a masterpiece of economic, philosophical, and legal reasoning that will shake progressive ideology to its foundations, and, if read by enough young people, dispatch it to a waiting grave."
Andrew Napolitano, Fox News
"Stringham dispels state-worshipping fiction with historical fact to show how good governance has preceded Leviathan, ignores it when necessary, and can surpass it when it fails."
Peter Thiel, Entrepreneur
"If you read this book you will have to readjust what you think is possible. A masterful account that mixes history, theory, and a deep understanding of what contracts really mean."
Michael Munger, Duke University
"The dominant view in economic and political theory is that markets can only exist in the 'shadow of the state.' This superb volume challenges this contention head on."
Mark Pennington, King's College London
"Explains how private governance can work in theory and carefully details a series of real-world case studies to illustrate how it actually works. Stringham writes so well that this book should be appreciated and enjoyed by academics and non-academics alike."
Bruce Benson, Florida State University
"The theory and practice of private provision of protection, security, and adjudication has a long and distinguished history. Private Governance is an extremely important contribution to understanding this issue."
Leonard Liggio, Institute for Humane Studies
"Adam Smith brought us the 'invisible hand.' Now, Stringham brings us 'private governance.' Am I going too far in comparing Stringham to Smith? Maybe so, but it is because Smith does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Stringham. Read this book (that's an order!)."
Walter Block, Loyola University-New Orleans
"Brimming with surprises and intellectual curiosity. Stringham turns the conventional wisdom on its head, in delightful and convincing fashion."
Tom Woods, Historian
"Masterfully weaves economic analysis with little-known history and elegant storytelling to demonstrate the power of individuals to create order without law or government. Essential reading for policy-makers, academics, and anyone else with questions about the power of freedom."
Marcus Cole, Stanford University
About the Author
Edward Peter Stringham is the Davis Professor of Economic Organizations and Innovation at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. Stringham is president of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, former president of the Association of Private Enterprise Education, editor of the Journal of Private Enterprise, editor of two books, and author of more than sixty journal articles, book chapters, and policy studies. His work has been discussed on more than 100 broadcast stations, including CBS, CNBC, CNN, Fox, Headline News, NPR, and MTV.
Top customer reviews
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My sole complaint about the book is directed at Oxford University Press -- Why is the print so excruciatingly small? The manner in which this book is printed makes it very difficult to read, and if the content were not so fascinating might have led me to put it down. Please do a better job on subsequent printing. This material deserves a thicker volume.
Prof. Stringham is a member of the Economics faculty at George Mason University and his writing reflects his academic background. It is the one negative aspect of the book, in my opinion. The text is embedded with hundreds of links and references to foot-notes, which for me made the reading more laborious that necessary.
If you are convinced that people cannot get along without government and bureaucratic regulations, you should add this book to your reading agenda. It will surely convince you otherwise.
That said, Stringham's book provides a lot of insight that Huemer doesn't get to.
As someone who is already a libertarian anarchist (and as a non-economist), the most valuable insights I got out of "Private Governance" were those related to seeing the extent to which private governance exists in all societies (even statist ones) to varying degrees and the extent to which legal centrism ("the idea that order in the world depends on and is attributable to government law") is false.
Stringham writes: "Although not legal centralists in the traditional sense, many radical libertarians are legal centralists of a sort who simply substitute private enforcers for government enforcers of law. If a potential problem comes up, the libertarian legal centralist is prone to say, “That would be illegal in my ideal world.” Yet even the best private police or courts might not be able to solve a problem in a cost-effective way, so private parties may have to live with certain trade-offs or seek alternative solutions."
"Private Governance" explores these trade-offs and alternative solutions--creative solutions that even many anarcho-capitalists and other free market thinkers (who now seem to me as well to give legal centrism too much credit) don't seem to be aware of or don't mention as much as they should.
Education about these many kinds of private governance are important in part because the more that people learn about the large variety of possible private solutions to problems, the less likely they will be to assume/believe (like nearly everyone mistakenly does) that government intervention to try to solve these problems is beneficial or necessary.
Stringham's book definitely increased my awareness and appreciation of the extent of private governance solutions that exist. This was not the first time that my beliefs about how well private actors could solve problems was changed in this direction. Rather, my views have shifted further in this direction a great deal over time as my views changed from default-statism to minarchist libertarianism to anarchist-libertarianism (and then even kept shifting further from legal centrism even after I became an anarchist). While my views on this hadn't changed much lately, this book definitely shifted my beliefs further.
And then: In his last chapter Stringham claims to have just skimmed the surface of examples of private governance with his exploration in his book, and I believe him.
He writes: "In many cases, solutions do not exist, or have yet to be invented. For example, cavemen, and for that matter the vast majority of people in human history, did not have the luxury of the New York Cotton Exchange or Chicago Mercantile Exchange acting as rule-enforcing clearinghouse. Such is the world. But innovations are always popping up, and a researcher can help document them rather than assume that markets are made possible by declarations of law."
So now I am lead to believe that more voluntary, private solutions to problems currently exist (and and can exist--they just need to be invented) than I will ever be aware of. And further, to the extent to which I or others believe they don't exist, we are probably simply not looking hard enough or not being imaginative enough. This is an important lesson that "Private Governance" teaches.