Constitutional Drift and Political Dysfunction: Underappreciated Maladies of the Political Commons

Independent Review 21(4) 2017: 569-585

24 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2015 Last revised: 15 Mar 2017

See all articles by Alexander William Salter

Alexander William Salter

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business; American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: June 17, 2015

Abstract

In this paper I offer a novel interpretation of the challenges posed by ‘constitutional drift’ — the tendency for de facto political procedures to alter when these procedures no longer are incentive-compatible for those wielding political power — for sound governance institutions, with special reference to the American republic. While it is widely recognized that various watershed political events, most obviously the New Deal, have upended American constitutional arrangements, what is less obvious is how the new constitutional order presents severe difficulties for discovering which political projects, out of the limitless number which are technically feasible, are truly in the interests of both governors and governed. These difficulties, incorrectly identified as problematic only for adherents of conservatism or classical liberalism, in fact exist for a wide range of political philosophies. Drawing on insights from constitutional political economy and market process economics, I discuss possibilities for escaping the accompanying tragedy of the political commons.

Keywords: Constitutions, federalism, feedback, fiscal imbalance, political commons, polycentricity

JEL Classification: H11, H40, H77, P14, P16

Suggested Citation

Salter, Alexander William, Constitutional Drift and Political Dysfunction: Underappreciated Maladies of the Political Commons (June 17, 2015). Independent Review 21(4) 2017: 569-585. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2619838 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2619838

Alexander William Salter (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

HOME PAGE: http://awsalter.com

American Institute for Economic Research

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

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