Front Page Titles (by Subject) VII.: Toward a Civic Religion - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10 (The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy)
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VII.: Toward a Civic Religion - 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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Toward a Civic Religion
In this chapter, we have discussed three major barriers to constitutional reform in democratic social order. The thrust of our argument has been that these barriers can be overcome. We do not, however, underestimate the task Western democracies face, and we do not want to seem unduly optimistic. We are asking no less than that the basic rules of the socioeconomic-political game be changed, rules that have been in place for decades, and that these changes be made peacefully while the game continues to be played under the old rules. This order is a tall one indeed, and we should be under no delusion that a constitutional revolution will simply emerge, in revolutionary fashion, without a conscious investment of effort.11
Our efforts, in this book and elsewhere, are aimed largely at the academic constituency, at our peers in the social sciences, law, and philosophy. And it is here that we must begin, especially if we accept Keynes’s dictum about the influence of academic scribblers. It is naïve to think that practicing politicians and practical individuals become constitutional statesmen without some coherent set of ideas provided by academe, either before or along with political articulation.
The first step is the achievement of some measure of academic consensus on diagnosis. We must come to agree that democratic societies, as they now operate, will self-destruct, perhaps slowly but nonetheless surely, unless the rules of the political game are changed. In the United States in particular, there seem to be modest grounds for hoping that such a consensus is in the process of construction, notably with respect to the fiscal and monetary rules, which have been the subject of much discussion in the 1970s and 1980s. There is increasing awareness that something other than ordinary politics will be required to generate fiscal and monetary discipline, that a regime is needed that will function in the acknowledged long-term interests of all participants in the body politic. The search for, and discussion of, alternative fiscal and monetary rules has begun.
In more general terms, this book is an expression of the hope that a new “civic religion” is on the way to being born, a civic religion that will return, in part, to the skepticism of the eighteenth century concerning politics and government and that, quite naturally, will concentrate our attention on the rules that constrain governments rather than on innovations that justify ever expanding political intrusions into the lives of citizens. Our normative role, as social philosophers, is to shape this civic religion, surely a challenge sufficient to us all.
We must redesign our rules, and our thinking about rules, with the ultimate aim of limiting the harm that governments can do, while preserving the range of beneficial governmental-collective activities. We plead with our fellow academicians to cease their proffering of advice to this or that government or politician in office. Good games depend on good rules more than they depend on good players. Fortunately for us all, and provided that we understand the reason of rules in the first place, it is always easier to secure agreement on a set of rules than to secure agreement on who is or is not our favorite player.
This book is set in Minion, a typeface designed by Robert Slimbach specifically for digital typesetting. Released by Adobe in 1989, it is a versatile neohumanist face that shows the influence of Slimbach’s own calligraphy.
This book is printed on paper that is acid-free and meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, z39.48-1992. (archival)
Book design by Louise OFarrell, Gainesville, Fla.
Typography by Impressions Book and Journal Services, Inc., Madison, Wisc.
Printed and bound by Worzalla Publishing Company, Stevens Point, Wisc.
[11. ]In our opinion, great damage has been and is being done by modern economists who argue, indirectly, that basic institutional change will somehow spontaneously evolve in the direction of structural efficiency.