The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism

The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism

The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism

The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism

Excerpt

The idea for the conference which led to this volume came when I taught a course on representation in which the readings included both the Federalist Papers and Buchanan and Tullock’s Calculus of Consent. In teaching that course (and forcing myself to reread the Federalist carefully for the first time since my own graduate student days), my admiration for its authors, already high, grew even higher. I also became convinced that theorists of the “public choice” school were the natural heirs to the Federalist legacy. I mentioned this idea to Donald Wittman, who confessed his own admiration for the Federalist Papers and a willingness to join me in organizing a conference on the “Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism” (originally “The Federalist Papers in Public Choice Perspective”) in time to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Federalist Papers. The conference took place March 20–22, 1987, at the University of California, Irvine.

All the contributors to the conference and volume are associated to one extent or another with the “public choice” approach in political science. Remarkably, all, despite their busy schedules, expressed enthusiasm about writing a paper linking public choice ideas to those in the Federalist Papers. Most said that they had always wanted an excuse to write about the Federalist Papers. Others, like Bill Riker and Bill Keech, who had already done so, were interested in contributing to a volume celebrating the continuing importance of the Federalist Papers as a source for what has come to be called positive theory.

I have learned a lot from the contributors to this volume. I still believe that the new institutionalists of the public choice school are the natural heirs to Madisonian political theory, but I am now more sensitive to the features of Madisonian theory that are almost entirely absent from the public choice literature: the role of deliberation and rational persuasion, a concern for justice and the search for the public good, and a respect for civicvirtue and civic education. Compare the . . .

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