… is from page ix of my colleague Pete Boettke’s “Foreword” to Edward Peter Stringham’s just-published (2015) Oxford University Press book, Private Governance:
Traditional political economists believe that without a strong state authority, private actors will prey upon those weaker than themselves. In so doing, traditional political economists commit errors of both overpessimism and overoptimism. The standard analysis is overly pessimistic about the ability of individuals and communities to find rules that enable them to live better together and to realize the social gains from cooperation rather than devolve into social conflict without the establishment of a coercive state authority. But the standard analysis is also overly optimistic about the state’s ability to establish binding constraints on itself so that societies are not just trading off the threat of private predation for public predation.