Front Page Titles (by Subject) I.: Introduction - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy)
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I.: Introduction - 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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In Chapter 7 we discussed the connection between rules and justice. We argued that a meaningful discussion of justice presupposes the existence of rules and that a just outcome emerges when the relevant rules have been followed.
Such a view of justice is not common, in either economic or broader circles. Orthodox conceptions of justice invoke the notion of distributive justice, or “equity.” In this view, the justice or injustice of an outcome is held to be an intrinsic property of the outcome itself and to be context independent. To determine whether one social outcome is more “just” than another, one need merely investigate the relative positions of individuals in each. Relative positions are typically measured by reference to individuals’ incomes or wealth, although sometimes consumption of, or access to, certain “crucial” consumption items (for example, health, housing, food, or education) can be regarded as a superior basis for comparison.
It is not our objective here to criticize this familiar conception of distributive justice; in what follows, we shall take the normative relevance of “equality,” or “less inequality,” somehow construed, as given. Our concern is, rather, to examine the concept of distributive justice from the constitutional perspective. Our task is to ask, given the normative judgment that equality is desirable, what set of institutional arrangements are likely to be most conducive to securing that “equality” (or “less inequality”). Are there any reasons for believing that the political order will generate a more nearly equal distribution of income than a free market would generate (as seems to be commonly assumed)? What “rules” of political order are likely to generate more “equitable” outcomes?
Before we address these issues, however, it is important to recognize that in posing them we adopt a perspective on distributive justice very different from the orthodox one. We shall therefore begin our discussion by attempting to characterize the orthodox approach and by showing how the constitutional view raises additional, crucial issues. We shall also indicate what is, in our judgment, analytically incoherent about the orthodox conception.