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Is Limited Government Possible?
This paper is an analysis and critique of the neo-contractarian positions of Rawls and Buchanan and some of the theses of Hayek. The central point is that goods, the rules for distributing them and the meta-rules for choosing these rules, form a single hierarchy whose ordering depends solely on our preferences and interests in the final goods at stake. In a pure utility-maximising paradigm, nothing else can possibly explain constitutional choice. Logical and formal analysis of the thesis reaches the conclusion that what will inevitably tend to arise from popular sovereignty (ie, democracy) is a constitution maximising the area of choice controlled by the public sphere (unlimited government), and minimising the decisive coalition that will take on such choices (the rule of the bare majority). This logical demonstration is also backed up by the real historical evolution of democratic systems. Constitutional contrivances and expedients fail to prevent this outcome. All that can stop it is unreasoning acceptance, by significant sectors of society, of certain metaphysical propositions. Individuals must freely accept limits to the scope of pure reason and to the mere calculation of costs-and-benefits, if they are not to opt for public policies which, though promoting their interests, would be liable to violate natural law.