Political Insurance for the (Relative) Poor: How Liberal Constitutionalism Could Resist Plutocracy

26 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2018 Last revised: 25 Mar 2019

See all articles by Tarunabh Khaitan

Tarunabh Khaitan

University of Melbourne - Law School; University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; NYU Law School; Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality Law

Date Written: October 28, 2018


Fair value of equal political liberties is a key precondition for the legitimacy of a regime in liberal thought. Preventing a semi-permanent lockout of a social group from all political power is a threat to the stability of liberal constitutional regimes. Given the convertibility, subtlety and resilience of power, gross material inequality — produced by neoliberal economic policies — effectively locks the relative poor (roughly, the bottom 20% of a class hierarchy) out of political power. Such lockout breaches both the legitimacy and the stability constraints of a liberal constitutional democracy. Neoliberal democracies, sooner or later, become plutocracies. This possibility should be of concern not only for liberal political theory but also for liberal constitutionalism. The usual objections to a constitutional concern with gross inequality and plutocracy — based on transparency, countermajoritarianism and flexibility — are useful design instructions, but do not rule out the constitutionalisation of egalitarian and anti-plutocratic norms. A whole panoply of legal and political constitutional measures — already familiar to or incrementally developed from liberal constitutional thought and practice — could be marshalled to promote material equality and prevent plutocracy.

Keywords: Democracy; Liberalism; Fair Political Opportunity; Plutocracy; Equality; Material Inequality; Constitutionalism, Neoliberalism

Suggested Citation

Khaitan, Tarunabh, Political Insurance for the (Relative) Poor: How Liberal Constitutionalism Could Resist Plutocracy (October 28, 2018). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3274125 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3274125

Tarunabh Khaitan (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

NYU Law School ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics