Liberty Matters is hosting once again a very interesting discussion dealing with the work of Anthony de Jasay. The lead essay is by Hartmut Kliemt and the first response has been authored by Chris Coyne. Additional commentary will be provided by Michael Munger and Edward Stringham.
Back in 1987 in an essay long forgotten -- Virginia Political Economy: A View From Vienna -- see pp. 10-12 -- I argue that Buchanan's decision to treat the rules of the social game parametrically creates a serious problem for the student of political economy who want to understand the origin of real world property rights arrangements. The social contract apparatus clearly can serve some very useful purposes in thought experiments but understanding the evolution of social cooperation requires a different intellectual move. In the constitutional moment of post-communism a few years later, I was a bit more sympathetic to Buchanan's constitutional project, but even there rather than seek an alternative to what Kliemt catalogues as 'contractarian', 'evolutionary', and 'natural rights' as he argues de Jasay offered, I blend them into an explanation for how you can forge a new constitutional order in post-communism. See Why Perestroika Failed -- pp. 108-112. The evolutionary, or Hume-Hayek, program is capable of absorbing within its focus on endogenous rule formation both a "convention" notion of natural rights, and a "contractual" notion of the institutionalization of the social convention. It is this intellectual path, I believe, which leads to the research program of the positive political economy of 'anarchism' that Coyne so eloquently discusses in his reply to Kliemt's lead essay.
I hope the conversation continues, and that it inspires young scholars to look at the window and allow their natural curiosity to guide them to study the real world anarchism that is evident all around them -- from the pressing and troubling reality of failed and weak states to the beauty and source of human flourishing in private governance mechanism in the advanced material states of the world. Endogenous rule formation, rather than restricting our vision to only what legal centralism and constitution making from the top down enables us to see, is the more productive path to progress in social theory.