AdvisorBuchanan, Allen E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractCurrently, the argument that markets cannot provide public goods underlies the justification of political authority most widely accepted by political theorists. Yet, as theorists usually depict the problem, public goods could be voluntarily produced at levels of efficiency comparable to those attainable by coercion. Once we allow that the real problem is much more messy than its theoretical models led us to believe, we have to admit that coercion may be necessary after all. At the same time, we have to admit that the moral problem of justifying coercion is also more messy than we thought, and for precisely the same reason. I discuss contractual mechanisms for voluntary public goods provision, arguing that with such a mechanism, voluntary contribution levels might be much higher than conventional theories predict. My theory is borne out in laboratory experiments. Still, it remains an open question whether it would be worth the trouble to switch from the coercive methods presently employed to noncoercive (or less coercive) methods of public goods provision. A strictly efficient method is not among our options. We have to assess the efficiency of various methods in a relative sense. Should we find cases in which public goods cannot be provided by contract, or should we decide that in some cases we do not even want to risk trying voluntary methods, we are forced to face the moral issue squarely. I offer a traditional analysis of justice, although I employ it in a somewhat unorthodox way in drawing conclusions about the moral status of private property in a well-ordered society. I then use this analysis to develop a foundation for property rights, exploring its implications for questions concerning what people are morally obliged to do, and what they can legitimately be forced to do, for the sake of public goods production.