The Enterprise of Law
The Enterprise of Law

The Enterprise of Law

Justice Without the State


416 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Paperback, ebook: EPUB, ebook: PDF, Mobipocket

Paperback, $22.95 (US $22.95) (CA $25.95)

Publication Date: July 2011

ISBN 9781598130447


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In the minds of many, the provision of justice and security has long been linked to the state. To ask whether non-state institutions could deliver those services on their own, without the aid of coercive taxation and a monopoly franchise, runs the risk of being branded as naive anarchism or dangerous radicalism. Defenders of the state’s monopoly on lawmaking and law enforcement typically assume that any alternative arrangement would favor the rich at the expense of the poor—or would lead to the collapse of social order and ignite a war. Questioning how well these beliefs hold up to scrutiny, this book offers a powerful rebuttal of the received view of the relationship between law and government. The book argues not only that the state is unnecessary for the establishment and enforcement of law, but also that non-state institutions would fight crime, resolve disputes, and render justice more effectively than the state, based on their stronger incentives.


"Bruce Benson has provided us with an exciting book that probes and challenges our understanding of the nature of individual rights, the source of evolution of those rights, and the social instruments that might be used to enforce them. I am aware of no other source that approaches the central topic directly and with the insights provided by modern economics and public choice. He has made a solid contribution to our understanding of how the law is a natural consequence of the attempts of people to live and work with each other and can evolve naturally without the guiding hands of the state."  —Charles R. Plott, Edward S. Harkness Professor of Economics and Political Science, California Institute of Technology

"This is an absolutely fascinating book . . . Benson breaks an incredible amount of new ground here, but his most important contribution is the clear, logical, historical, and readable presentation of the argument."  —Robert D. Tollison, professor of economics, Clemson University

"This is a valuable and interesting book . . . . Few skeptics will be persuaded of so radical a thesis in one reading, but the best of them should recognize that a real alternative is being proposed—and defended—by arguments that deserve to be taken seriously."  —David D. Friedman, professor, School of Law, Santa Clara University

"Benson's book is an important contribution to law and economics literature. He properly emphasizes the role of institutions in shaping incentive and the role of incentives in shaping institutions."  —Henry G. Manne, dean emeritus, School of Law, George Mason University

“In The Enterprise of Law, Bruce Benson provides us with the most comprehensive treatise on private sector alternatives to government law enforcement available today. Benson systematically addresses all the issues, arguments, and objections surrounding the growing role of market institutions in the legal system. But his book is more than a mere defense of current privatization trends in protective services, corrections, and dispute resolution. The Enterprise of Law questions the seemingly axiomatic proposition that law and order are “necessary functions of government.”  —CATO Journal

“Benson's book, The Enterprise of Law, promises to do for privately produced law what [Lawrence] White's work did for free banking. Benson has produced a carefully researched and comprehensive introduction to polycentric law. It is sure to stimulate further work in the field. . . . . I suggest Benson's The Enterprise of Law as the best general overview of the field.”  —Tom W. Bell, law professor, Chapman University

“It is the outstanding merit of Bruce Benson to subject this view to withering scrutiny, both theoretical and historical . . . . The Enterprise of Law is a magnificent achievement and I enthusiastically recommend it.”  —Review of Austrian Economics

Author Biography

Bruce L. Benson is the recipient of the Ludwig von Mises Prize and the Adam Smith Award, a senior fellow of the Independent Institute, and a contributing editor of the Independent Review. He is a professor of economics at Florida State University, has written numerous articles and reviews, and is the author of The Economic Anatomy of Drug War, Privatization in Criminal Justice, and To Serve and Protect. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

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