… is from page 349 of Vol. 19 (Ideas, Persons, and Events ) of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan; specifically, it’s from Jim’s 1996 essay “Society and Democracy”:
In any realist model or understanding of political process, majority rule becomes more than a means either of closing off discussion or of discovering truth. Majority rule becomes a means through which the interests of those who make up the successful coalition may be advanced, if necessary, at the expense of those who are outside this coalition.
DBx: This realistic assessment of majority-rule politics unrestrained by constitutional rules should be no more controversial than is the realistic assessment of market activities unconstrained by defined property rights and competition. Unfortunately, the romantic view of majority-rule democracy thrives while that of markets has long ago shriveled and died. An author such as Nancy MacLean finds, correctly, in the works of Jim Buchanan skepticism of unconstrained majority-rule politics and then concludes, not only incorrectly but wholly illogically, that Buchanan was a secret enemy of democracy and a friend of racist plutocrats.* Would MacLean, upon finding in the work of, say, Milton Friedman acknowledgements of situations of market failure (which can indeed be found in Friedman’s work) conclude that Friedman was secretly an enemy of free markets and a friend of socialists? Were she consistent, she’d have to do so.
* The Jim Buchanan described by MacLean is utterly unrecognizable to anyone who’s read Buchanan’s work with care and, especially, to those of us who knew him. MacLean’s portrait of Buchanan is as realistic as would be a portrait of Heinrich Himmler as a secret humanitarian and friend of the Jewish people. That is, not only is the portrait factually unfounded, it’s brutally the opposite of the truth.