April, 2019

Constitutional catallaxy

Friends and enemies in an open-ended social order
  • Richard Wagner

    Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Alexander Salter

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Most liberal constitutional theorising, as exemplified by Buchanan (1975) and Rawls (1971), operates with a two-level scheme of analysis. The first level entails agreement on the rules through which a polity is constituted; the second level entails self-interested action inside that framework of rules. Within this framework a polity is constituted through agreement on the rules that frame political action. In this paper, we explore how this scheme of analysis might be relaxed by recognising that acquiescence is not agreement. Hence, people can acquiesce in some framework of governance without truly accepting it. In this alternative framework, agreement on rules is always incomplete, for two sets of reasons. One is the limited and divided quality of knowledge (Hayek, 1937; 1945). The other is the persistent presence of antagonism within society, as conveyed by Carl Schmitt's (1932) distinction between friends and enemies, and with that distinction present as well in William Riker's (1962) theory of political coalitions.