Cato Bound

Cato launched a new blog/magazine this month and their first feature has been a discussion of three prescriptions from James Buchanan for fixing the Constitution.

Buchanan’s first proposal is a pretty tame piece of wonkery: a balanced budget amendment. His second proposal is more interesting because it’s incoherent, he advocates a generality wherein the state can make no laws which discriminate in imposing costs or providing benefits for individuals. He quickly demonstrates the incoherence of the idea by offering a flat income tax as an example of a law that doesn’t discriminate. Anthony de Jasay explains why this notion of generality makes no sense.

Buchanan’s final proposal:

“The Madisonian construction is flawed by its authorization of government regulation through the much abused Commerce Clause. The authorization should be restricted to the prevention of interferences with voluntary exchanges and should not extend to the prohibition, or the coercive dictation of the terms, of such exchanges. Nor should any differentiation be made between exchanges within the domestic economy and those made with others outside the political jurisdiction.”

Buchanan adds:

“Such a requirement is little more than explicit acknowledgment that persons possess the natural liberty to enter into and exit from agreements, without concern for collectively imposed constraints.”

Well. How will this constitution, even with Buchanan’s amendments, be anything but collectively imposed constraint?

Maybe I’ll consider my natural liberty to enter into, and exit from, agreements credibly acknowledged when Buchanan explains how I can opt out of his arrangement.

6 thoughts on “Cato Bound”

  1. Even the Balanced Budget Amendment is pretty shaky. How do you enforce such an Amendment? Does the Supreme Court get a say in striking down spending on fiscal grounds? Can it compel Congress to raise taxes?

  2. Buchannan:

    The outlay side of the account has been, surprisingly, ignored, and fiscal history is characterized by a failure to distinguish between programs that, at least in principle, are aimed to benefit citizens of the polity generally and those that are, often explicitly, aimed to benefit members of identified groups.

    Let’s see. I don’t want this to come across harsh:

    Fuck you. That’s my money you’re endorsing away to “benfit citizens of the polity generally”, and it was stolen outright. If you can’t even be bothered to recognize that simple fact, then you aren’t worth another thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *