Societies function on the basis of rules. These rules, rather like the rules of the road, coordinate the activities of individuals who have a variety of goals and purposes. Whether the rules work well or ill, and how they can be made to work better, is a matter of major concern. Appropriately interpreted, the working of social rules is also the central subject matter of modern political economy. This book is about rules - what they are, how they work, and (...) how they can be properly analysed. The authors' objective is to understand the workings of alternative political institutions so that choices among such institutions can be more fully informed. Thus, broadly defined, the methodology of constitutional political economy is the subject matter of The Reason of Rules. The authors have examined how rules for political order work, how such rules might be chosen, and how normative criteria for such choices might be established. (shrink)
Contributions in modern theoretical physics and chemistry on the behavior of nonlinear systems, exemplified by Ilya Prigogine's work on the thermodynamics of open systems, attract growing attention in economics. Our purpose here is to relate the new orientation in the natural sciences to a particular nonorthodox strand of thought within economics. All that is needed for this purpose is some appreciation of the general thrust of the enterprise, which involves a shift of perspective from the determinism of conventional physics to (...) the nonteleological open-endedness, creative, and nondetermined nature of evolutionary processes. (shrink)
The article discusses some of the fundamental conceptual and theoretical aspects of rational choice and moral order. A distinction is drawn between constitutional interests and compliance interests, and it is argued that a viable moral order requires that the two interests somehow be brought into congruence. It is shown that with regard to the prospects for a spontaneous emergence of such congruence, a distinction between two kinds of moral rules which we call trust-rules and solidarity-rules is of crucial importance.
I take it as my assignment to criticize the Gauthier enterprise. At the outset, however, I should express my general agreement with David Gauthier's normative vision of a liberal social order, including the place that individual principles of morality hold in such an order. Whether the enterprise is, ultimately, judged to have succeeded or to have failed depends on the standards applied. Considered as a coherent grounding of such a social order in the rational choice behavior of persons, the enterprise (...) fails. Considered as an extended argument implying that persons should adopt the moral stance embodied in the Gauthier structure, the enterprise is, I dunk, largely successful. Considered as a set of empirically falsifiable propositions suggesting that persons do, indeed, choose as the Gauthier precepts dictate, the enterprise offers Humean hope rather than Hobbesian despair. (shrink)
In his treatise, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), F. A. Hayek emphasized the central role of the generality principle, as embodied in the rule of law, for the maintenance of a free society. This book extends Hayek's argument by applying the generality principle to politics. Several important policy implications emerge. There are no direct implications to suggest how much governments should do. The argument suggests strongly however, that, whatever is done politically, must be done generally rather than discriminatorily.
To commence any answer to the question “Can democracy promote the general welfare?” requires attention to the meaning of “general welfare.” If this term is drained of all significance by being defined as “whatever the political decision process determines it to be,” then there is no content to the question. The meaning of the term can be restored only by classifying possible outcomes of democratic political processes into two sets – those that are general in application over all citizens and (...) those that are discriminatory. (shrink)
This work presents a critical assessment of the political and social order in the post-revolutionary decade of the 1990s in both the transitional economies and Western welfare states confronting fiscal crises. The author analyzes the role of economists in the new socio-political environment.
"Minimal liberalism", in Sen's strict definition, is impossible, because any 'social state', once chosen, freezes all of its components, thereby removing any prospect of further assignment of choice-making authority.
Western liberal societies are described by a mix of two contrasting ethical presuppositions, that which commences from a perspective that views persons as natural equals and that which commences from a perspective that classifies persons hierarchically. Differences in this mix among separate polities may create difficulties as principles of justice are extended across national boundaries in response to continuing globalization.
Monetary policy prior to, during, and following the 1990?1991 recession was the tightest and most restrictive in over 30 years. Some have suggested that this policy was explicitly designed by the monetary hawks on the Federal Reserve to wring out the residues of inflationary expectations; others, that the central bank could not offset the real, and powerful, negative shocks buffeting the American economy. But a better explanation is that the monetary authorities were passive because they failed to appreciate the treacherous (...) financial weather caused by new capital requirements and the massive bailout of insolvent institutions. (shrink)
There are no first principles etched in stone from which all moral philosophers must take their bearings. We must deliberately choose our point of departure in any attempt to respond to the question: “Must any defensible theory of justice incorporate both a commitment to personal liberty and to economic equality?” Basic to our own approach is a suspicion of seers and visionaries who espy an external source of values independent from human choices. We presuppose, instead, that political philosophy commences with (...) individual evaluation. 1 A near-corollary of this presupposition is that each individual's preferences ought to be taken into account equally with those of others. That is, we suppose that there is no privileged evaluator, whose preferences are accorded decisive weight. Conceptual unanimity as a criterion for institutional evaluation follows naturally from the other two presuppositions. If there is neither an external standard of value nor a corps of resident value experts, only unanimity can ultimately be satisfactory as a test of social desirability. Our perspective then is subjectivist, individualist, and unanimitarian. These presuppositions inform our contractarian analysis. There are, however, two separate contractarian traditions that we shall find useful to distinguish, the “Hobbesian” and the “Rawlsian.” In the first, persons find themselves in the anarchistic war of each against all. They contract away their natural liberties in exchange for the order that civil society – through its sovereign – affords. In this contracting process, individuals are assumed to possess full self-knowledge; they know who they are, what conceptions of the good they hold, and what their endowments are. (shrink)
Western visitors to those parts of the world that before 1991 were politically organized as the Soviet Union have been impressed by the attitudes of persons toward behavior in ordinary exchanges, attitudes that seem to be so different from those in Western economies. The essential elements of an “exchange culture” seem to be missing, and this absence, in itself, may be central to the effective functioning of market economies. Individual participants in ordinary exchange relationships in Western economies act as if (...) they understand the simplest of all economic principles, namely, that there are mutual gains from trade, that the benefits are reciprocal, that exchange is a positive-sum game. This “as if” understanding, which remains perhaps below our level of consciousness in the West, is largely missing from the public attitudes of citizens of the former Soviet Union, who behave as if the gains from trade do not exist, or at least are one-sided rather than mutual. (shrink)