Private Governance and the three biases of political philosophy


Private Governance shows that philosophers, political and legal theorists, and social scientists mistakenly believe in legal centralism, the view that order in the world depends upon and is made possible by state law. In fact, most governance not only happens to be private, but must be private. This paper extends Edward Stringham’s argument by claiming that philosophers tend to suffer from three biases. Diffidence bias means they are overly pessimistic about people’s willingness and ability to cooperate without state enforcement. Statism bias means the overestimate the degree to which cooperation is secured by the state. Guarantee bias means they overestimate the value and need for legal guarantees.

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Correspondence to Jason Brennan.

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Brennan, J. Private Governance and the three biases of political philosophy. Rev Austrian Econ 31, 235–243 (2018).

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  • Polycentric law
  • Anarchism
  • Elinor Ostrom
  • Cooperation
  • Prisoner’s dilemma
  • Trust game
  • Assurance

JEL classification

  • B53
  • P12
  • P14
  • P48
  • Y80