Anthony de Jasay: The State, reviewed by William C. Mitchell/Randy T. Simmons, in: Beyond Politics, Worldview Press, Boulden 1995

A far more eloquent and perhaps profound study is that of Anthony de Jasay, The State (London: Basil Blackwell, 1985), a rare treatise both highly original and wise. The book is a beautifully written and genuine masterpiece. His insights come from an original if simple question: “What would you do if you were the state?” Readers will learn much from his answers to this question.

Another highly relevant volume is that of Margaret Levi entitled Of Rule and Revenue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), which is less profound but more in keeping with conventional scholarly practices than the de Jasay book. Levi attempts to combine questions of a macro-sort about states with the logical apparatus of public choice and economics. She wishes to know the optimal mix of revenues from the point of view of the state. Since the author once pursued Marxist thinking, kier command of that material is sound, as is her understanding of public choice. The book is also quite clearly written and argued.