The Calculus of Consent at Fifty: Insights for Liberalism by Niclas Berggren opens the morning session on the future of liberalism. The Calculus of Consent is now a classic text by Buchanan and Tullock. He discusses the book under a number of headings.
Constitutionalism: There are rules (ie constitutions) and then there is politics. The veil of uncertainty – what rules would people want if they did not know their own circumstances until the game of life has begun. But they omitted the need to consider the way that the rules themselves are changed through the ongoing political process. There is also an assumption of a unitary state but that is a form of utopianism since there may be different jurisdictions where varying kinds of constitutions might be set up. B%T have concentrated too much on formal structures. All these require further thought.
Conclusions: (1) Look at constitutions (2) Need to think about the political structures (3) Need to implement checks and balances. Finally, do not accept everything that B&T have written but can be inspired by their work.
Still the danger of majority tyranny of minorities remains. [Whether anyone has an answer is hard to see.]
Paretian Optimality: Need some alternative to unanimous decision making. Suggests we should beware of “do-gooders” [but how?].
[The most tepid praise for a book I may have ever heard.]
Second speaker Jan Oravec, President of the F.A. Hayek Foundation. “Is Liberalism in Europe Dead?” Not an academic. He runs a free market entrepeneurial association.
Europe is threated by “extensions of arbitrary power . . . caused by a weakening of respect for private property.” This from MPS in 1947. Not much has changed. We on the liberal capitalist side have been proven right a thousand times over, yet liberalism is hated as never before. Takes up a number of themes.
Language: Opponents of liberalism have made general public believe in their false narratives. Even amongst ourselves, we are not clear about these in our own language. The words “capitalism” and “economic growth” have, for example, proven difficult. Even the defenders of capitalism no longer willing to defend as it needs to be. Defenders often merely state that it is the worst system except for all the others. We should instead say we are not in a capitalist system – either a mixed system or actual socialism.
“Economic growth” – but now clouded with need to add “sustainable”, “green”, “equitable”, “innovative”, “inclusive”, “cohesive” etc as adjectives to associate with growth. No-growth advocates are winning out.
History: There is this pretence that since 1989 we went from socialism to capitalism; what has actually happened is a transition from socialism to capitalism back to socialism via the EU. Normal description, we live in democratic capitalism. In reality, it is creeping socialism. Wealth distribution dominates wealth creation.
Policy: “Disastrous monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies in Europe (A Triumph of Keynesianism)” [!!!]
“Anti-liberal crusade of global regulators – ILO, UN, OECD – restricting freedoms and inventing claims”
Final thought: Is Liberalism in Europe Dead? Not yet but getting there.
Third Speaker Hardy Boullion
There is a need for a new strategy to deal with the evolution of leftist thought. The aim of the left is now to seek “global justice” thus going beyond national borders. Cannot therefore depend on the normative foundations of classical liberal principles. Need something to deal with a clash of utilitarian demands. How to legitimate properly rights in the present world. Locke’s principles can no longer be applied and will certainly not be accepted by others. There can be no global contract theory which can only exist within a single political entity.
The principle proposed is “finders keepers”. Once someone possesses something, the second comer must defer to the property rights of the first. Agrees that this is a thin defence.
[I can see the problem he raises - if you grant extra-national rights on your national wealth then how do you limit their claims on you? I see the problem but I don't see his solution will work to limit the appetites these extra-national claims imply.]