Front Page Titles (by Subject) VI.: The Aim of Politics - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy)
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VI.: The Aim of Politics - 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 Aim of Politics
We set out in this chapter to explain the noncontractarian-nonconstitutionalist vision of politics that stands in intellectual opposition to our own position, which we discussed in Chapter 2. In our attempts to do this, we frequently found it useful to introduce comparisons and contrasts with our own position. Our purpose in this section is to extend this comparison and contrast of the two paradigms to a more general setting. Central to the analysis will be the distinction between the application of evaluative criteria to end states or outcomes, on the one hand, and to processes or rules, on the other. The discussion will be related to the familiar distinctions made by philosophers between consequentialist and nonconsequentialist argument or, alternatively, between teleological and deontological arguments. As the discussion will demonstrate, it is relatively easy to classify the contractarian-constitutionalist position in terms of these categories; it is much more difficult to classify the noncontractarian position.
The contractarian-constitutionalist position is almost necessarily nonconsequentialist and deontological. Evaluative criteria must be applied to rules or processes rather than to end states or results, at least in any direct sense. As such, there is no means of evaluating any end state, because there is no external standard or scale through which end states can be “valued.” End states must be evaluated only through the processes that generate them. What emerges from a process is what emerges and nothing more. If the process is such that individuals seem to be allowed to give due and unbiased expression to their own values, however these may be formed and influenced, the results must be deemed acceptable. (The particular posttrade allocation of apples and oranges between the two traders has no evaluative significance.) This process-oriented evaluation need not rule out possible feedback between outcomes and evaluations of processes. Patterns of outcomes generated under particular processes or rules may be such as to make the processes themselves unacceptable.
In this paradigm, however, politics as such has no aim or objective. Politics, broadly defined, is a complex institutional process through which persons express the values they place on the alternatives with which they are presented. It is internally contradictory to refer to “national goals,” although, of course, individuals in a polity may share certain objectives.
As noted, it is much more difficult to place one of the familiar philosophical rubrics on the noncontractarian position outlined in this chapter. Again, however, the “politics as science” metaphor may be helpful. Politics in this paradigm is consequentialist and teleological in the same sense that science fits within these categories of argument. The activity as such remains nonconsequentialist and nonteleological because there is no predetermined objective that is known to participants and toward which all efforts within the activity are directed. Like science, politics is modeled as a discovery process, aimed at finding “public good.” This end state, this good, is not known outside the activity of the search itself. But there is a critically important sense in which the whole argument is teleological. The activity of discovery, in science or in politics, is carried on under the continuing and pervasive presumption that what is sought exists independent of the expression of individual values in the search itself. Another way of putting this is to say that participants would agree that if the ultimate objective were known, all effort would be directed toward its achievement. Politics becomes a never-ending search for the grail of “public good.” This “good” is not to be defined by the values of the persons who conduct the search. Such persons seek something outside themselves.
Modeling the Individual for Constitutional Analysis