Constitutional Mythologies

Volume 23 of the series Studies in Public Choice pp 25-37


Agent Type, Social Contracts, and Constitutional Mythologies

  • Peter BoettkeAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, George Mason University Email author 
  • , Alexander FinkAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, George Mason University

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The quest to constrain the power of the state has been ongoing since ancient Athens. And the fundamental paradox of governance has been the same ever since, how can we empower government with the ability to govern over men, but also constrain government so it does not abuse the powers entrusted with it. This is the essence of the argument for limited government, and the Constitutional project. “If all men were angels,” they would not have to be governed, and if we could select omniscient angels for government, the question of “who guards the guardians” would be ­obsolete. Realizing that men are neither perfectly noble nor all-knowing leaves us with the task of constraining those that do the governing. The social contract that defines the rules of the game of governing allows government to limit private ­predation and limit pubic predation by the government only if it is robust against the flaws of the available agent types.