Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV.: The Authoritarian Imperative - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy)
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IV.: The Authoritarian Imperative - Geoffrey Brennan, The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy) 
The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy) Foreword by Robert D. Tollison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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The Authoritarian Imperative
The “politics as science” or “politics as truth judgment” conceptualization of the social interaction process is both authoritarian and antiindividualistic. These terms are intended to be descriptive rather than pejorative. The authoritarian imperative emerges directly from the extraindividual source of valuation of “public good.” If “public good” exists independently of individuals’ evaluations, any argument against the furtherance of such good because of some concern for individual liberty becomes contradictory. If “public good” exists separately from individuals’ preferences, and if it is properly known, it must assume precedence over (although, of course, it could embody) precepts for maintenance of personal liberties.
The “politics as science” paradigm is antiindividualistic because it locates the ultimate source of value outside the psychological domain over which participants may express effective preferences. In a sense, the paradigm is “organic” or “organismic” in that it embodies a definition of “good” in application to the whole community of persons rather than to individual members. In such a definition, however, there need be no crude postulation of some organic unit—for example, “the state” or “society.” Individuals may still be reckoned to be the ultimate units of consciousness; no supraindividual being need be hypothesized. The “good” defined in application to the community remains, nonetheless, supraindividual because individuals cannot question its independent existence. Implicitly, all persons must agree that what is “good” would be properly promoted if what is “good” could ever be found.
Once again the analogy with science is helpful. Michael Polanyi has called the scientific community “a society of explorers.” Implicit in this conception is the presumption that individual scientists share the same ultimate objective, truth, and that it is not legitimate for an individual scientist to claim respect for his own beliefs merely because they are his own. As it may actually be organized, the scientific community may or may not appear to be working well in its avowed task of truth discovery. It must nonetheless be conceived to be working within the limits of its defined objective, the attainment of truth. For example, a hierarchically organized laboratory may be deemed less efficient than a decentralized laboratory, but scientists in the former are still modeled as behaving within the limits of the overall objective. Because they are so modeled, any overt limits or restrictions on their freedom of action must be imagined as closing off possible directions of exploration. To impose “constitutional constraints” on the activities of scientists, postulated to be united in their search for truth, would seem itself authoritarian rather than its opposite.
This analogy with science may suggest why anticontractarians view with genuine fear and loathing modern proposals to impose constitutional limits on the exercise of political authority. In the mind-set described, politics as an activity to be constrained makes no sense. Those who advance proposals for such limits appear to be taking it upon themselves to prejudge that for which the whole procedure is established. Constitutional constraints on governments are like rules that prevent scientists from entering certain territories for investigation. To the person who views politics from this perspective, there is no logical basis for constitutional contract at all.
We have entitled this chapter “The Myth of Benevolence” because of the implications of the paradigm. We can clarify these implications by thinking of the social scientist or social philosopher who tries to examine his raison d’être. In such an intellectual setting, the scholar does not, and cannot, model his own behavior in any participatory capacity, because he cannot acknowledge that his own values (or anyone else’s) count. The activity of politics as such is carried out by professional political leaders, whose behavior is described as that of disinterested seekers after “public good” in the context of the various issues that may be confronted. In this paradigm, these leaders are neither agents for citizens, nor representatives of citizens’ interests and values. The scholar, on the sidelines, must almost by necessity model his own behavior as that of a disinterested seeker one stage removed, in a role as adviser or consultant to those who are more active participants. The scholar is like the scientist in almost all respects, seeking “good” in lieu of the scientist’s “truth.”
The scholar we describe here seems immune to the Wicksellian charge that he proffers advice “as if” to a benevolent despot. He does so because he does not understand the charge. Unless politics is modeled in some version of the contractarian, or complex exchange, paradigm, outcomes do not emerge from a process in which separate interests and values are somehow amalgamated through a set of decision-making institutions. Political outcomes are, instead, chosen by whoever seeks the “good” in accordance with his own best judgment of what such good is. There is no question as to the potential compromise or adjustment of separate interests. Those who disagree with the definition of the “good” are misinformed and in error; they can be made to “see the light” through the rhetoric of politics. In this setting, there is no way the individual scholar can envisage a role for himself other than that of the disinterested searcher for the “good,” who has a claim to be better informed than the ordinary citizen.
As he takes on the role as adviser to princes, whether imaginary or real, the scientist-philosopher must oppose all suggestions for constitutional reform that involve additional limits on governmental authority, and, for like reasons, he must support all proposals for relaxation of existing constraints. Any overt restriction on political authority impinges on the scholar’s freedom of choice once removed. In the idealized search for political “good,” the scholar-scientist needs to roam the universe of potentially feasible space. The possibility set must remain as open and inclusive as observed environmental parameters allow.