Table of Contents

Constitutional Economics and Public Institutions

Constitutional Economics and Public Institutions

New Thinking in Political Economy series

Edited by Francisco Cabrillo and Miguel A. Puchades-Navarro

This extensive book explores in detail a wide range of topics within the public choice and constitutional political economy tradition, providing a comprehensive overview of current work across the field.

Chapter 1: Presuppositions in the evaluation of rules

James M. Buchanan

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice


I have often asked my fellow economists to pay more attention to the rules, to the constitution, that define the order within which economic and political behavior takes place, and from which end-states emerge. I have been continuously disappointed by the failure of my peers to express an interest in, or even to understand the presuppositions of, my argument. The separation between constitutional politics and ordinary politics is seldom recognized; hence, the important implications of the distinction are not examined. Politics, as observed and widely interpreted, readily becomes an arena of conflict, with winners and losers identified. By contrast, the setting for constitutional politics involves the search for agreed-upon rules that define ‘games’ from which mutual gains are anticipated by all participants. Failing some presupposition that members of the body politic agree on the ultimate rules, how can the polity, as a collective entity, be legitimized at all?

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