The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and, therefore, no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature or to the quality of his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade or totally negligent of their duty…
The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned… Political reason is a computing principle; adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically, or mathematically, true moral denominations.
Equilibrium and the Middle
The previous chapter introduced the idea of “spatial” utility functions for choices along a single dimension, and laid out the solution of equilibrium at the median position. Now, we ask whether this notion of the “middle” also is a plausible result in more complex political spaces, with two or more dimensions. Burke’s claim is intriguing: Is the “middle” in complex political choices really “incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned”? Is the middle a general concept, or is it restricted to policy choices of one dimension?
To introduce the logic of the multidimensional spatial model, it is useful first to consider an example of a legislative committee. We will call this the “Appropriations Committee;” it is responsible for choosing a budget with two line items. That is, the budget will be sum of the spending on Policy 1 and spending on Policy 2. The choosers may have preferences on each policy, prefer one policy to another, or have a complex preference regarding how the two policies go together.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.