Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
Chapter 5: Constitutional political economy
The phrase ‘constitutional political economy’ has, no doubt, appeared in the literature in a variety of contexts over many years, but for our purposes the key uses of the phrase as the label for a distinctive research program developed from the use of ‘constitutional economics’ over the period following the publication of The Calculus of Consent (Buchanan and Tullock 1962) and became firmly established in the sub-title of The Reason of Rules (Brennan and Buchanan 1985), and as the name of the journal launched in 1990. The most obvious distinction that identifies constitutional political economy (hereafter, CPE) from political economy more generally defined is that between the analysis of constitutional rules and the analysis of policy formulation and behavior under those rules. CPE is dedicated to the analysis of constitutional and institutional rules, where this includes both the study of the operating characteristics of alternative rules or sets of rules and the questions arising from the design and reform of constitutional rules. Of course, this distinction should not be taken to imply that the constitutional perspective can be fully separated from the study of behavior under constitutional rules. The implications of any set of particular rules for expected behavior will be a major factor to be accounted for in any discussion of the design and evaluation of rules. Nevertheless, the shift of focus from behavior-under-rules to the design of rules is a key element of CPE.
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