The Limits of Government: An Essay on the Public Goods Argument


David Schmidtz

The most widely accepted justification for political authority is that coercive institutions are necessary to provide for public goods. Making use of the tools of rational choice theory, economics, and the law of contracts, the author offers a critique of this argument. Along the way, he makes significant contributions to our understanding of the logic of contractarian arguments, the prisoner's dilemma, and the institution of property. An important lesson is that a community is and must be primarily a voluntary association, and in one final chapter the book explores the implications of this lesson for the foundations of morality.

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