Lincoln and the Politics of the “Towering Genius”

STEVEN B. SMITH

AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT, Volume 7, Number 3

Abstract: This article examines Lincoln’s “Lyceum Speech” with its concern for the “towering genius” in politics against the backdrop of the recent rise of populism and demagoguery. Lincoln’s concern was with a new kind of problem, namely, the appearance of the romantic hero in politics, a figure presaged in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau and that took the form of radical conscience politics. The model of the transcendental hero was John Brown, whose abolitionist impulse put individual conscience above the law. I contrast the transcendental hero to Lincoln’s conception of constitutional statecraft as based on an ethic of moderation and self-restraint. The article concludes with a contrast between Lincoln and Tocqueville’s worry that the American democratic republic would be characterized by the absence of individuals of grand ambition. Lincoln, I argue, is a better guide to the politics of the contemporary moment.

Economic Foundations of the Territorial State System

AVIDIT ACHARYA, ALEXANDER LEE

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Abstract: The contemporary world is organized into a system of territorial states in which rulers exercise authority inside clearly defined boundaries and recognize the authority of other rulers outside those boundaries. We develop a model to explain how the major economic and military developments in Europe starting in the fifteenth century contributed to the development of this system. Our model rationalizes the system as an economic cartel in which self‐interested and forward‐looking rulers maintain high tax revenues by reducing competition in the “market for governance.”

Social contracts for real moral agents: a synthesis of public reason and public choice approaches to constitutional design

KEVIN VALLIER

CONSTITUTIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY

Abstract: Citizens in contemporary democratic societies disagree deeply about the nature of the good life, and they disagree just as profoundly about justice. In building a social contract theory for diverse citizens, then, we cannot rely as heavily on the theory of justice as John Rawls did. I contend that Rawlsian liberals should instead focus on developing an account of constitutional choice that does not depend on agreement about justice. I develop such an account by drawing on the contractarian approach to constitutional choice pioneered by public choice theorists, especially James Buchanan. With some modifications, public choice can help identify mutually justifiable constitutional rules based on the extent to which these constitutional rules produce appropriate laws under normal conditions. This new, synthetic approach to constitutional choice also helps to explain the moral significance of contractarian agreement for the public choice theorist.

Grotius on Property and the Right of Necessity

DENNIS KLIMCHUK

JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

Abstract: It is widely held that in situations of peril, it is permissible to use another’s property without her permission if that is the only way to save oneself from serious harm, but that if one damages or consumes that property, one ought to compensate its owner. However, this idea—that there is what is commonly called ‘the right of necessity’—has proven surprisingly difficult to justify. According to Grotius, the right of necessity issues from a constraint imposed by natural law on the positive law of private property. I defend an interpretation of Grotius’s account of property and the right of necessity against some recent sympathetic readers, and show how he escapes a seemingly telling criticism from Pufendorf.

Barriers to prosperity: the harmful impact of entry regulations on income inequality

DUSTIN CHAMBERS, PATRICK A. MCLAUGHLIN, LAURA STANLEY

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: Entry regulations, including fees, permits and licenses, can make it prohibitively difficult for low-income individuals to establish footholds in many industries, even at the entry-level. As such, these regulations increase income inequality by either preventing access to higher paying professions or imposing costs on individuals choosing to enter illegally and provide unlicensed services. To estimate this relationship empirically, we combine entry regulations data from the World Bank’s Doing Business Index with various measures of income inequality, including Gini coefficients and income shares to form a panel of 115 countries. We find that countries with more stringent entry regulations tend to experience more income inequality. In countries with average inequality, increasing the number of procedures required to start a new business by one standard deviation is associated with a 7.2% increase in the share of income accruing to the top decile of earners, and a 12.9% increase in the overall Gini coefficient. This result is robust to the measure of inequality, startup regulations, and potential endogeneity. We conclude by offering several policy recommendations designed to minimize the adverse effects of entry regulations.

De-moralization as Emancipation: Liberty, Progress, and the Evolution of Invalid Moral Norms

ALLEN MUCHANAN and RUSSELL POWELL

SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY AND POLICY, Volume 34, Issue 2

Abstract: Liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment understood that surplus moral constraints, imposed by invalid moral norms, are a serious limitation on liberty. They also recognized that overcoming surplus moral constraints — what we call proper de-moralization — is an important dimension of moral progress. Contemporary philosophical theorists of liberty have largely neglected the threat that surplus moral constraints pose to liberty and the importance of proper de-moralization for human emancipation. This essay examines the phenomena of surplus moral constraints and proper de-moralization, utilizing insights from biological and cultural evolutionary thinking.

30 years after the nobel: James Buchanan’s political philosophy

MICHAEL C. MUNGER

THE REVIEW OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS

Abstract: There are three main foundations of Public Choice theory: methodological individualism, behavioral symmetry, and “politics as exchange.” The first two are represented in nearly all work that identifies as “Public Choice,” but politics as exchange is often forgotten or de-emphasized. This paper—adapted from a lecture given on the occasion of the 30th year after Buchanan’s Nobel Prize—fleshes out Buchanan’s theory of politics as exchange, using four notions that are uniquely central to his thought: philosophical anarchism, ethical neutrality, subjectivism, and the “relatively absolute absolutes.” A central tension in Buchanan’s work is identified, in which he seems simultaneously to argue both that nearly anything agreed to by a group could be enforced within the group as a contract, and that there are certain types of rules and arrangements, generated by decentralized processes, that serve human needs better than state action. It is argued that it is a mistake to try to reconcile this tension, and that both parts of the argument are important.