Emergent Politics and Constitutional Drift, The Fragility of Procedural Liberalism

Estefanía Campos  | 25 de junio de 2019  | Vistas: 60

How does a constitution of liberty as described by Friedrich A. Hayek, becomes a constitution of social control?

In this lecture, Glenn Furton talks about the ideas of several economists about emergent politics and political exchange. For Buchanan and Tullock in 1962, this was called political catallaxy and these tools explained an unplanned order of markets as a result of individuals economizing behavior and a propensity to truck border and exchange. Wagner (2016) refers to this as entangled political economy, where political outcomes are a “spontaneous order”, hence “emergent politics”.

The standard approach to political economy presumes that the state is an organization, that the internal coherence of the state has a teleology, or a purpose”.

Furton clarifies that his approach is positive, not normative since he is not trying to insist on the desirability of a liberal constitution but rather explain the fragility of this type of constitution. Continues defining what are political property rights, talks about the constitution of the United States, is it generalizable? How robust are liberal constitutions?

Afterwards he makes the distinction between these concepts of the theory: De jure: the formal written feasible rules in the constitution, and De facto: the informal rules; how people actually obey rules in action. Furton also gives several examples of exchange and political bargaining.

“There seems to be a potential incompatibility between formal constitutions in liberalism (...) what we require now is a better understanding of these mechanisms by which the constitution bargains proceed”.

Then Glen talks about the dynamics of constitutional drift from the perspective of classical elitist theorists: Robert Michels, Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca. He concludes emphasizing some ideas: political economy is founded on rational action, politics is a “peculiar business” because something is being exchanged, that political exchange depends on political property rights and other important takeaways.


Research assistant at the Free Market Institute and a Ph.D. candidate…


Nuestra misión es la enseñanza y difusión de los principios éticos, jurídicos y económicos de una sociedad de personas libres y responsables.

Universidad Francisco Marroquín