April 28, 2012

Deficits, Debt, and Democracy

Wrestling With Tragedy on the Fiscal Commons
  • Richard Wagner

    Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
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This timely book reveals that the budget deficits and accumulating debts that plague modern democracies reflect a clash between two rationalities of governance: one of private property and one of common property. The clashing of these rationalities at various places in society creates forms of societal tectonics that play out through budgeting. The book demonstrates that while this clash is an inherent feature of democratic political economy, it can nonetheless be limited through embracing once again a constitution of liberty.

Not all commons settings have tragic outcomes, of course, but tragic outcomes loom large in democratic processes because they entail conflict between two very different forms of substantive rationality; the political and market rationalities. These are both orders that contain interactions among participants, but the institutional frameworks that govern those interactions differ, generating democratic budgetary tragedies. Those tragedies, moreover, are inherent in the conflict between the different rationalities and so cannot be eliminated. They can, as this book argues, be reduced by restoring a constitution of liberty in place of the constitution of control that has taken shape throughout the west over the past century.

Purchase the book at Amazon.com.