Sketches of an evolutionary constitutional economics: Part II

(For part I click here)

The “how to be a constitutional architect” conundrum dovetails with the questions of why constitutions matter and whether they really do evolve; whether they can or should be rationally designed or allowed to adapt in a process of spontaneous ordering. Most scholars think they have an angle on constitutional design – that is, as constitutional architects – that is rational because they frame the problem as axiomatic. They position themselves as constitutional architects and endeavour to draw up blueprints that are fitting for today, and forever. This makes constitutional analysis an exercise in logical reasoning (Locke, Kant, Mill, Rawls, etc.). The master social planer is the master architect; and essentially this amounts to an exercise in constitutional monument building.

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Sketches of an evolutionary constitutional economics: Part I

Gerald Frug has coined a nice term: The architecture of governance. He uses it to describe the vast array of service delivery arrangements at the local government level; the way that authority is allocated to a variety of different kinds of institutions – city neighborhood associations, city governments, private enterprise, and the like. See him speaking about this here.

The term architecture has also been applied to organisations; most notably by Carliss Baldwin and Kim Clark in their work on the power of modularity in organisation design. Their work has spawned an entire sub-genre of study on organisational structure and performance.

I am interested in meshing these two approaches into what might be termed a kind of ‘evolutionary constitutional economics’. In content, this is more closely aligned to Frug’s work; but in practice it would look a lot more like the Baldwin and Clark approach.

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Gus DiZerega on self-organisation, scientific progress, and democratic consensus

In democratic politics the public good is the same sort of concept. It, too must be discovered. Often the public goods is considered to be some specific state of affairs or hierarchy of ends which “the people” are supposed to favor. This misconstrues its nature. Beyond the most general formulations, there is substantial disagreement as to what measures are or are not in the public good. Given the enormous complexity of contemporary political issues, any reasonable person would admit to considerable uncertainty as to what specific programs will be most in keeping with the public good. This has lead some political scientists to deny that the concept carries any theoretical or practical weight at all.

Gus DiZerega (1994), Federalism, self-organization and the dissolution of the state

And that is why you should not believe a word any politician says when they start appealing to notions of the ‘public good’. It doesn’t exist. And even if it did, it is entirely disingenuous to suggest you have a clue as to what it might be. See also Hayek on dispersed information, and Shackle and Lachmann on radical subjectivity and kaleidics.