Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 4, 2013

in Politics

… is from page 347 of Vol. 19 (Ideas, Persons, and Events [2001]) of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan; specifically, it’s from Jim’s 1996 essay “Society and Democracy”:

Unfortunately, confusion emerged as previously despotic regimes came increasingly to be replaced by constitutionally guaranteed democratic electoral systems.  What I have called “the electoral fallacy” emerged in the nineteenth century, reflected in the notion that so long as there existed constitutional protection that guaranteed universality in the franchise, open and periodic elections, freedom of entry into the formation of political parties, and the generality of enforcement of laws enacted through majoritarian processes, politics would be kept within bounds.  Democracy was considered to be the guarantor of the discipline that it imposed on itself.  There was little or no understanding that electoral democracy, in particular, requires its own constitutional constraints.  This absence of understanding was exacerbated by the resurgence of the romantic image of politics in early nineteenth-century political philosophy.  The constitutional wisdom of the eighteenth century was lost, and democracy, treated as almost synonymous with majoritarianism, was allowed to move almost at will into areas of civic society that remained unprotected by constitutional barriers.

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