Individualism and Political Disorder

Individualism and Political Disorder

James M. Buchanan and Yong J. Yoon

Inspired by F.A. Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order, this book also stands in contrast to the themes of that work, by emphasizing that collective action works differently from the way the market works. The chapters comprise papers written by James M.Buchanan, both with and without Yoon’s co-authorship, after the publication of his Collected Work volumes. These chapters reflect the authors' thoughts on politics, seen through the lens of fiscal policy and the tragedies of the commons and anti-commons in collective action. The pathologies of democratic politics rigorously analyzed in the book prove the relevance of Buchanan's constitutionalism

Chapter 7: Universalism through Common Access: An Alternative Model of Distributive Majoritarian Politics

James M. Buchanan and Yong J. Yoon

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, political economy, public choice theory


The rational-choice logic of majority rule embodies discriminatory distribution of burdens and benefits as between members of majority and minority coalitions. Empirical observation, however, suggests universality or near-universality, even in programs that are potentially discriminatory. Attempts have been made to explain the anomaly, but the basic issues have not been resolved. Weingast and others have argued that working legislatures will implicitly adopt quasi-unanimity rules or conventions. We present an alternative model of distributive majoritarian politics. The distinctive feature is "common access." If democratic politics is modeled, not in terms of a monolithic decision structure, but instead as a setting where differing and separate decision authorities are granted access to the general taxable capacity, collective action can be analyzed in the logic of common resource usage. Our model allows for universality, even with pork-barrel spending, without resort to institutionalized rules or informal conventions.

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