Interviews with Anthony de Jasay

There are not a lot of (English) interviews with the social philosopher Anthony de Jasay. An hour-long spoken interview was conducted by Hartmut Kliemt in 2000 as part of Liberty Fund’s Intellectual Portrait Series.

In March 2010, the Gary Johnson for President blog featured a brief written interview with Anthony de Jasay – a surprising choice considering Jasay’s consistent pessimism about (electoral) politics and democracy.

During the summer of 2010, I conducted an extensive written interview with Anthony de Jasay about themes that are usually not treated in his writings, and asked him to further elaborate on existing themes. Topics covered in this interview include his motivation to produce social philosophy and commentary, contractarianism, philosophy of science, sovereign debt default, voting, neoclassical economics, David Hume, money, evolutionary psychology and rational choice, his own assessment of his (past) writings, and the effect of his poor eyesight on future projects. This interview is now available in the Fall 2011 issue of the Independent Review.

A close inspection of his answers in the Independent Review interview reveals a thorough pessimism about the prospect of legal and political strategies (or any social strategies) to contain the power of government. Jasay strongly objects to being classified as a contractarian, but his outlook on the inevitability of political coercion and exploitation indicates a rather bleak “Hobbesian” view of human nature – a tendency in his works that was also identified by Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan in the Anthony de Jasay festschrift Ordered Anarchy.

Anthony de Jasay sees himself mainly as a philosophical anarchist who questions the moral and economic legitimacy of the State. The best we can hope for is that making the case for “ordered anarchy” may increase the support for reducing, or at least not increasing, the State at the margin.