A Conversation with Anthony de Jasay

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Anthony de Jasay, Hartmut Kliemt
Año 2000 | Liberty Fund | Duración:..
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  • Initial credits
  • A conversation with Anthony de Jasay and Hartmut Kliemt
  • University of Oxford 
  • Motivations for criticism towards John Maynard Keynes theories
  • Criticism of contractarianism
  • Role of the political philosopher
  • Poland against France's government in the 1980s
  • Social insurance and transactions costs
  • State provision against private provision
  • Definition of liberty
  • Final words
  • Final credits
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As part of The Intellectual Portrait Series, political philosopher and economist Anthony de Jasay converses with Dr. Hartmut Kliemt, as this presentation sets back to the fears and job-seeking obstacles that forced him to flee his country Hungary, and to the later years when he earned a degree in economics. His understanding of this science has allowed him to write several books regarding related topics, such as power, politics, government, and individuals, among others, while stating that economics teaches people to think and to have an alertness of mind.

De Jasay presents his view on social contracts, referring to it as the opium of the people, and explains how individuals fall into the trap of believing in the need and voluntary acceptance of the state's intervention to rule over them. The dialogue furthers on his accumulation of experiences and knowledge, as they discuss his academic works and his analysis on the idea of limited and minimal government, making evident his conviction in balance of power, spontaneous enforcement and free will.



A Conversation with Anthony de Jasay
Anthony de Jasay, Hartmut Kliemt

Liberty Fund: The Intellectual Portrait Series
Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001

Thanks to Liberty Fund Inc. for permission to distribute this program. For further information about rights to this program or others produced by Liberty Fund Inc. go to The Intellectual Portrait Series and Copyright and Fair Use policy. 

Digitized by New Media - UFM. Guatemala, October 2013
Publication: Daphne Ortiz; index and synopsis: Diana Pishquí; content reviser: Sofía Díaz

Selected quotes, questions and external links: Amy M. Willis, Liberty Fund Fellow

Imagen: cc.jpgThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 License
Este trabajo ha sido registrado con una licencia Creative Commons 3.0


Selected Quotes from Anthony de Jasay

"I had the arrogance to attack his god."

"I didn't believe in any macroeconomics that didn't start off with micro."

"What economics does for you, it teaches you to think. But its subject matter is of very little importance."

"The state can starve you if it has sufficient power over jobs."

"When all these private fortresses are demolished, then you are ultimately delivered to the state."

"My governing idea is that people intend to stay in power."

"If people buy this line that what they are really doing is voluntarily accepting the state, then of course it's... easy for the state to rule over them."

"Show me a constitution that effectively limits the ability of the state to preempt resources."

"When you have collective choice and individual choice side by side, it is within the power of collective choice to preempt individual choice, but never vice versa."

"There is very little in the world that is anonymous. Everything gets known."

"There's always more to be gained in total by performing contracts than by defaulting on them."

"We are not in pursuit of perfection…We want real societies, not abstract ideals."

"Let's not imagine that nobody falls through the cracks under state provision."

"The instant we pay taxes, we create the platform for the free-rider."

Oxford and Keynes

What was the inspiration for de Jasay's critique of Keynes, and what was the substance of his critique?


After retiring from a career in finance, de Jasay turned once again to writing. What factors does he note as prompting his desire to write The State?

The Minimal State

Anthony de Jasay says he does not believe that achieving the minimal state is possible. In what two ways does he suggest the notion of the minimal state can be undermined? Is de Jasay too pessimistic? Explain.

Hartmut Kliemt asks de Jasay if there is an inherent tension between his methodological individualism and his apparent assumption of unitary power in The State. How does de Jasay respond, and how convincing is his response?

How did James Buchanan influence the trajectory of The State?

Why does de Jasay describe contractarianism (like that of Buchanan) as a "logic trap?" What is the "myth of legitimation?"

The Role of the Political Philosopher

Kliemt presses de Jasay on why he feels we should not advocate for "better" government, but de Jasay insists we should neither welcome nor approve of a government which is tolerable. Why, and to what extent do you find this position reasonable?

On Constitutions and America

Why does de Jasay think most people have a totally unjustified faith in constitutions? To what extent do you agree with him?

De Jasay says America is "an unbelievably lucky country." What reasons does he give for this, and how true is his claim?

Anarchist or Reluctant Archist?

While de Jasay calls himself an anarchist, he does offer a caveat. What is it? How does his view of anarchy's possibility vary over the short and long term?

Why does de Jasay insist that collective choice will always be able to preempt individual choice? How does his perspective differ from that of Buchanan?

Private Contract Enforcement

De Jasay believes contract enforcement can still exist in the absence of the state. How does he think this would work, and how plausible do you find this explanation?

De Jasay says, "The world is always a small place. This is where I differ from Hayek." What does he mean by this? With whom would you agree?

What would be the role of "mutual help" in stateless contract enforcement, according to de Jasay?

Explain why de Jasay notes it's fashionable, yet misleading, to point to transaction costs in justifying a role for the state.

The Return of the Free Rider

How has the introduction of the "prisoners' dilemma" made justifications for the state more sophisticated, according to de Jasay?

How does paying our taxes encourage free-riding, according to de Jasay?

How does de Jasay distinguish between a "right" and a "liberty?" To what extent is his distinction accurate and helpful?

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