James Scott, David Friedman, and Robert Ellickson Debate Anarchy

One and a half anarchists



Trinity College hosted an all-star panel on anarchy last month. The forum featured the economist David Friedman, one of the better-known exponents of market anarchism; the anthropologist and political scientist James C. Scott, whose ideas overlap with left-anarchism, though he's ultimately ambivalent about anarchy; and the legal scholar Robert Ellickson, whose work is sometimes cited by anarchists, though he very definitely favors a state. (At the forum, Ellickson argued that for several social functions—infrastructure, pollution control, a safety net—we're better off with some sort of compulsory government.)

Footage of the forum has now been posted online. The whole thing is worth watching, though I wish there had been more time for direct engagement between the panelists. Scott and Friedman get in some (polite) shots at each other's views, but there's little in the way of follow-ups to their critiques; and only at the end does one of the anarchists (Scott) offer a sustained reply to anything in Ellickson's presentation. (It's fun to watch the shift in Friedman's facial expressions in that part of the program: Suddenly he seems far more sympathetic to what Scott is saying.) I haven't seen any post-debate wrap-ups from Scott or Ellickson, but Friedman has posted some thoughts on the event here. The video is below:

Further reading: A selection of Friedman's Reason articles can be found here. Scott hasn't written anything for Reason (yet!), but I reviewed his book Seeing Like a State here (with additional comments here); Tom Palmer reviewed his book The Art of Not Being Governed for us here; and Lucy Steigerwald reviewed his book Two Cheers for Anarchism for us here. I don't think Ellickson has written for us either, but a fellow named David Friedman reviewed his book Order without Law for us here.