Collective action problems and anarchy (or minarchy)

Ms McArdle writes:

I concede that there is a collective action problem in providing actual public goods, like the military and statues of politicians on horseback; that is why I am not an anarchist, or even a minarchist.

I think there are at least a couple logical steps missing between the premise and the conclusion. In other words, I don’t think that the existence of collective action problems necessarily imply that anarchy or minarchy are wrong.

I can see two possible objections immediately:

1) The question should be whether government does a better job of solving the collective action problems than the private sector. In situations where the collective action problem is so large as to prohibit any private solution (would this happen?), the question would then be about whether the cost of setting up a government to solve the problem outweigh the benefits of “solving” the collective action problem.

2) The second objection would be ethical. Governments take money by force, if one viewed this as unethical then the fact that government uses its “evil” power for “good” ends does not necessarily make the whole thing ethical. In other words, the ethical objections against starting a government may still outweigh the economic benefits of starting one.

[Update: a good follow-up on taxes and collective action]


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