Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1.6.: The Enforceability of Constitutional Contract - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 (The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution)
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1.6.: The Enforceability of Constitutional Contract - James M. Buchanan, The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 (The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution) 
The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution, Foreword by Geoffrey Brennan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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Foreword and coauthor note © 2000 Liberty Fund, Inc. © 1980 Cambridge University Press.
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The Enforceability of Constitutional Contract
Our whole discussion depends critically on the assumption that constitutional choice is relevant, that the behavior of governments as well as the behavior of individuals and nongovernmental entities can be constrained by rules laid down at a constitutional level of deliberation. Without some such assumption, normative argument must necessarily be directed at those who hold political power currently and who are, personally, wholly unconstrained as to the uses to which such power might be put. In such a nonconstitutional model of the political process, there are no formal or legal protections against fiscal exploitation or other arbitrary action on the part of the state. Reformers must “preach” to the powerful, and the hope for moderation rests only with the moral-ethical precepts that the powerful might have come to acknowledge, and to live by, as taught to them by the “preachers” of all ages. In such a model, “limited government” is a contradiction in terms; by its monopoly on coercion, government is by nature unlimited.
To Thomas Hobbes, unlimited government is the only alternative to anarchistic chaos. He argued that all persons would willingly submit to the unchecked will of the single sovereign in exchange for the personal security that the latter promises to ensure, and which, indeed, is consonant with the sovereign’s own interest. The Hobbesian despot is preferred by everyone to the Hobbesian jungle, where life, for everyone, tends to be poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
We reject the Hobbesian presumption that the sovereign cannot be controlled by constitutional constraints. Historically, governments do seem to have been held in check by constitutional rules. The precise reasons why this has been so need not concern us here. But our whole construction is based on the belief, or faith, that constitutions can work, and that tax rules imposed within a constitution will prevail.
We do not deny that major problems of constitutional enforceability may emerge, particularly under situations where the whole idea of constitutional choice is not well understood in the prevailing public philosophy. To discuss problems of enforceability would, however, distract attention away from the main purposes of this book.