Calhoun’s Concurrent Majority as a Generality Norm

ALEXANDER WILLIAM SALTER
CONSTITUTIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY (2014). ADVANCED ONLINE PUBLICATION. DOI 10.1007/s10602-014-9183-x

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the political philosophy of John C. Calhoun from the perspective of Virginia Political Economy. Specifically, this paper argues that Calhoun’s theory of the concurrent majority offers a way of operationalizing the “generality norm” of Buchanan and Congleton’s Politics by Principle, Not Interest: Towards Nondiscriminatory Democracy (Liberty Fund: Indianapolis, 2003). The analysis of this doctrine, which holds that constitutional democracy can only be preserved from majoritarian absolutism if minority interests have the power to check the power of majority coalitions, is this paper’s main purpose. The paper also discusses the most plausible way Calhoun’s recommendations can be put into practice in the United States by drawing on insights from his Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, in which he defends the social compact theory of the union and the benefits of federalism.