Shocking Quote from Buchanan
By David Henderson
Written 35,000 feet above the earth en route to Boston. Aren’t technology and somewhat-free markets grand?
I’ll be the discussion leader at a conference this weekend, an event at which about 14 economists, political scientists, law professors, philosophers, and others discuss, in depth, a number of readings.
I’m preparing questions to start the discussion although, in my experience, people tend to discuss what they want to discuss.
Here’s a quote from a reading by the late James Buchanan, who was known for his emphasis on constitutions as ways of restraining government:
The authors of the United States Constitution, the Founding Fathers, did not foresee the necessity or need of controlling the growth of self-government, at least specifically, nor have these aspects been treated in traditional political discourse. The limits or constraints on governmental arms and agencies have been primarily discussed in terms of maintaining democratic procedures. Rulers have been subjected to laws because of a predicted proclivity to extend their own powers beyond procedural limits, at the presumed expense of the citizenry. But implicit in much of the discussion has been the notion that, to the extent that democratic process works, there is no need for limits. The system of checks and balances, ultimately derivative from Montesquieu, has rarely been interpreted to have as one of its objectives the limiting of the growth of government.
The quote is from James M. Buchanan, The Collected Works of James Buchanan, Volume 7: The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan, p. 205.
Here’s my question: Really?
I will grant that some of the founding fathers did not have this concern. I’m looking at you, Hamilton. But “the” founding fathers? I’m stunned.
You might argue that it has to do with Buchanan’s concept of self-government, but in context, it seems that self-government means, simply, democracy.