Liberty Matters

Geoffrey Brennan’s comment on Viktor Vanberg


Hmm. I’m not sure I do subscribe to Viktor’s latest gloss – partly because I am not completely sure what’s at stake.
For one thing, I reckon that agreements made between a number of individuals to form a club from which other individuals are explicitly excluded might turn out to violate constitutional agreements, depending on what contractors behind the constitutional veil of ignorance have to say about such cases – and if those agreements say nothing, how in-period politics following the agreed procedures happens to deal with them. For another, whether capacity to exit is a sufficient protection in the case of all contracts (multi-person or not) is not self-evident. I do not deny that we might have anxieties about contracts that deny exit rights once the contract is made – but some of the cases involved in this category seem to me to be “hard ones.”
The other aspect of Viktor’s comment that worries me is what I take to be a suggestion that, since virtual unanimity is more or less infeasible at the constitutional level, we can’t take Buchanan’s constitutionalism too seriously. That is, treating constitutional agreement as a “purely conceptual ideal” seems to me to invite giving Buchanan’s scheme a passing nod of approval and then getting on with the business of day-to-day politics. I’m not sure whether I myself fully endorse Buchanan’s constitutional contractarianism – but I would have thought that Jim wanted it to have more teeth than is suggested by “purely conceptual ideal”! Perhaps Viktor and I are not in such close agreement after all.