STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Big Developments in Nathan Goodman’s Work on War

Our former Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies, Nathan Goodman — now a PhD candidate at George Mason University — has been producing some great work on the costs of war, the abuses of empire, and the possibility of non-state defense projects. His work critiques the massive cost of the US military empire, as well as the standard economic rationales for centralized defense provided by the nation-state. He builds on the work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom and other pioneers of polycentric legal theory to make the case for a less costly, safer, and more humane approach to defense.

In particular, his work on war, peace, and the cost of the US military was recently highlighted at the Ron Paul Institute’s 2019 Washington Conference. You can hear his remarks below:

For a more in-depth study around the possibility of polycentric defense systems, though, check out his new paper “Polycentric Defense” which is up on SSRN and was co-authored with Christopher Coyne. The abstract for the paper reads:

Orthodox economics models defense as a public good provided by a central nation state. This approach abstracts away from the diverse institutions and processes individuals use to provide defense in the actual world. This paper frames defense as a polycentric system whereby dispersed groups of people find context-specific solutions to collective action problems. We explore what polycentric defense looks like, both theoretically and through historical illustrations.

You can also hear Nathan discuss this paper — and some of his other work — on a recent episode of Mutual Exchange Radio, the official C4SS podcast. As we build a new and freer world, working out the specifics on complicated problems such as regional defense is an immensely important pursuit.

Nathan’s groundbreaking work on this subject and others helps both to advance anarchist theory in its own right and improves the consideration of anarchist theory in mainstream academic landscapes. Keep an eye out for more great work on polycentric defense, the costs of imperialism, and anarchist economics from Nathan Goodman soon!

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