This book provides a novel account of the public goods dilemma. The author shows how the social contract, in its quest for fairness, actually helps to breed the parasitic 'free riding' it is meant to suppress. He also shows how, in the absence of taxation, many public goods would be provided by spontaneous group co-operation. This would, however, imply some degree of free riding. Unwilling to tolerate such unfairness, co-operating groups would eventually drift from voluntary to compulsory solutions, heedless of the fact that this must bring back free riding with a vengeance. The author argues that the perverse incentives created by the attempt to render public provision assured and fair are a principal cause of the poor functioning of organised society.
Anthony de Jasay is an independent theorist living in France. Other books he has written for Liberty Fund include The State, Justice and Its Surroundings, Social Contract, Free Ride, Political Philosophy, Clearly, and Political Economy, Concisely.