Constitutional Hopes and Post-Constitutional Fears

Buchanan’s divergent attitudes toward constitutional and post-constitutional politics create a tension considered in Peter J. Boettke and Jayme S. Lemke’s chapter as well. Both constitutional craftsmanship and post-constitutional political activity confront what is, in Wagner’s terms, certainly a dialectical tension between the capacity to design rules to facilitate certain outcomes and the recognition that all rules will result in unintended and unforeseen consequences. Why, Boettke and Lemke ask, was Buchanan cautiously optimistic regarding the potential for constitutional design to generate rules that effectively structure political interaction, in contrast to the pessimism with which he viewed post-constitutional political designs? They conclude that there is less tension between Buchanan’s reflections on the prospects for design at these two levels than initially thought. Boettke and Lemke examine Buchanan’s efforts to negotiate those underlying tensions confronted by rational designs within complex, evolutionary orders in relation to similar efforts by F.A. Hayek and Elinor and Vincent Ostrom. The reconstructed project of constitutional political economy drawing on all three of those perspectives resolves one additional bonus tension, showing that Buchanan was not as incompatible with Hayek’s evolutionary thinking as Buchanan’s own comments often suggested.

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