Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 31–52 | Cite as

Calhoun's constitutional economics

  • Peter H. Aranson


Calhoun's early speeches and writings argue for an expansive national government. His later works, most notablyA Disquisition on Government, argue for a strong version of states' rights, nullification, and secession. Earlier accounts of Calhoun's thought attribute this apparent contradiction to political expediency and opportunism. But I argue here that Calhoun's early nationalism was a reaction against the operation of multiple vetoes in the legislative process, requiring near unanimity to pass legislation. By 1825, however, Congress had evolved institutions that circumvented these vetoes, resulting in majoritarian redistribution. The later Calhoun opposed the legislation that followed from these circumventions and proposed an alternative form of unanimity, the concurring majority, as the appropriate corrective.


Economic Theory Alternative Form National Government Strong Version Apparent Contradiction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, T.L. and Hill, P.J. (1990) “The Race for Property Rights.”Journal of Law and Economics 32: 177–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aranson P. H. (1987) “Calculus and Consent.” In: C. K. Rowley (ed)Public Choice and Liberty. New York: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Aranson, P. H. (forthcoming publication) “The European Economic Community: Lessons from America.”Le Journal des Économistes et des Études Humaines.Google Scholar
  4. Aranson, P. H. (1989/1990) “Rational Ignorance in Politics, Economics, and Law.”Le Journal des Économistes et des Études Humaines 1: 25–42.Google Scholar
  5. Aranson, P. H. (1990) “Federalism: Doctrine against Balance.” Paper prepared for a Liberty Fund Conference on Federalism and Freedom, Crystal City, Virginia.Google Scholar
  6. Aranson P. H. and Ordeshook P. C. (1981) “Alternative Theories of the Growth of Government and Their Implications for Constitutional Tax and Spending Limits.” In: H. Ladd and T. N. Tideman (eds)Tax and Expenditure Limitations. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press.Google Scholar
  7. Aranson, P. H. and Ordeshook, P. C. (1985) “Public Interest, Private Interest, and the Democratic Polity.” In: R. Benjamin and S. L. Elkin (eds)The Democratic State Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  8. Barzel, Y. (1968) “Optimal Timing of Innovations.”Review of Economics and Statistics 50: 348–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Benson, B. L. (1990)The Enterprise of Law: Justice without the State. San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute.Google Scholar
  10. Buchanan, J. M. (1959) “Positive Economics, Welfare Economics, and Political Economy.”Journal of Law and Economics 2: 124–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buchanan, J. M. and Goetz, C. J. (1972) “Efficiency Limits of Fiscal Mobility: An Assessment of the Tiebout Model.”Journal of Public Economics 1: 25–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buchanan, J. M., Tollison, R. D., and Tullock, G. (1980)The Theory of the Rent-Seeking Society. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Buchanan, J. M. and Tullock, G. (1962)The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  14. Buchanan, J. M. and Vanberg, V. J. (1989) “Interests and Theories in Constitutional Choice.”Journal of Theoretical Politics 1: 49–62.Google Scholar
  15. Buchanan, J. M. and Wagner R. M. (1970) “An Efficiency Basis for Federal Fiscal Equalization,” In: J. Margolis (ed)The Analysis of Public Output. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  16. Burke, E. (1860)The Works of Edmund Burke, with a Memoir, 3 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers.Google Scholar
  17. Carneiro, R. (1970) “A Theory of the Origin of the State.”Science 169: 733–738.Google Scholar
  18. Capers, G. M. (1960)John C. Calhoun—Opportunist: A Reappraisal. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.Google Scholar
  19. Coase, R. (1974) “The Lighthouse in Economics.”Journal of Law and Economics 17: 357–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Current, R. N. (1943) “John C. Calhoun, Philosopher of Reaction.”Antioch Review 3: 223–234.Google Scholar
  21. Demsetz, H. (1964) “The Exchange and Enforcement of Property Rights.”Journal of Law and Economics 7: 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Demsetz, H. (1967) “Toward a Theory of Property Rights.”American Economic Review, and Proceedings 57: 347–359.Google Scholar
  23. Downs, A. (1957)An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  24. Dougan, W. R. and Munger, M. C. (1989) “The Rationality of Ideology.”Journal of Law and Economics 32: 119–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ely, J. H. (1980)Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Eulau, H., Wahlke, J. C., Buchanan, W., and Ferguson, L. C. (1959) “The Role of the Representative and Some Empirical Observations on the Theory of Edmund Burke.”American Political Science Review 53: 741–756.Google Scholar
  27. Fama, E. F. (1980) “Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm.”Journal of Political Economy 88: 288–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gamm, G. and Shepsle, K. A. (1989) “The Emergence of Legislative Institutions: Standing Committees in the House and the Senate, 1810–1825.”Legislative Studies Quarterly 14: 39–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haddock, D. D. (1986) “First PossessionVersus Optimal Timing: Limiting the Dissipation of Economic Value.”Washington University Law Quarterly 64: 775–792.Google Scholar
  30. Jensen, M. C. and Meckling, W. H. (1976) “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs, and Ownership Structure.”Journal of Financial Economics 3: 305–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kalt, J. P. and Zupan, M. A. (1984) “Capture and Ideology in the Economic Theory of Politics.”American Economic Review 74: 279–300.Google Scholar
  32. Kalt, J. P. and Zupan, M. A. (1990) “The Apparent Ideological Behavior of Legislators: Testing for Principal-Agent Slack in Political Institutions.”Journal of Law and Economics 33: 103–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kau, J. B. and Rubin, P. H. (1979) “Self-Interest, Ideology, and Logrolling in Congressional Voting.”Journal of Law and Economics 22: 365–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kirzner, I. (1985)Discovery and the Capitalist Process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kydland, F. E. and Prescott, E. C. (1977) “Rules Rather than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans.”Journal of Political Economy 85: 473–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McChesney, F. S. (1986) “Government Prohibitions on Volunteer Fire Fighting in Nineteenth Century America: A Property Rights Perspective.”Journal of Legal Studies 15: 69–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Michels, R. (1949)Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  38. Mueller, D. C. (1979)Public Choice. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Nelson D. and Silberberg, E. (1987) “Ideology and Legislator Shirking.”Economic Inquiry 25: 15–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olson, M. (1971)The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, rev. ed. New York: Schocken.Google Scholar
  41. Ostrom, V. (1987)The Political Theory of a Compound Republic: Designing the American Experiment, 2nd ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  42. The of John C. Calhoun (1959,passim.) 19 vols. (various eds.) Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  43. Peltzman, S. (1984) “Consumer Interest and Congressional Voting.”Journal of Law and Economics 27: 181–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shepsle, K. A. (1978)The Giant Jigsaw Puzzle: Democratic Committee Assignments in the Modern House. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  45. Shepsle, K. A. (1989) “Discretion, Institutions, and the Problem of Government Commitment.” Unpublished manuscript, Harvard University Department of Government.Google Scholar
  46. Sunstein, C. R. (1984) “Naked Preferences and the Constitution.”Columbia Law Review 84: 1689–1732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sunstein, C. R. (1985) “Interest Groups in American Public Law.”Stanford Law Review 38:29–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tiebout, C. M. (1956) “A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures.”Journal of Political Economy 64: 416–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Weingast, B. R., Shepsle, K. A., and Johnsen, C. (1981) “The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics.”Journal of Political Economy 89: 642–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. West, E. G. (1967) “The Political Economy of American Public Schools.”Journal of Law and Economics 10: 101–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilson, W. (1956)Congressional Government, with an Introduction by W. Lippmann, 15th ed. New York: Meridian Books.Google Scholar
  52. The Works of John C. Calhoun (1851) R. K. Cralle (ed). Columbia, South Carolina: A. S. Johnston.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© George Mason University 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter H. Aranson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsEmory UniversityAtlanta

Personalised recommendations