Governmental Inevitability: Reply to Holcombe

Holcombe (2004) has written an interesting and challenging but ultimately fallacious essay on government. In his view, this institution is “unnecessary, but inevitable.” I heartily agree with the former contention, but adamantly reject the latter. Worse is the implication for him of the supposed inevitability of the state: since it will come about in any case, we men of good will should strive to set one up ourselves in cases where this has not yet come about, so that our version of it may serve to stave off a later and more virulent strain of it. Says Holcombe (2004, 326): “If people create their own government preemptively, they can design a government that may be less predatory than the one that outside aggressors otherwise would impose on them.” This is akin to the cowpox smallpox technique. Infect the patient with the former, which is a mild strain, so that his white blood cells can create antibodies to fight it off; then, when the stronger smallpox attacked, the defenses would already be set up, and strengthened, able to fight off the disease.

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