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The problem of low expectations and the principled politician

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2022

Sam Schmitt*
Affiliation:
UNC-Chapel Hill, Hamilton Hall, 358, Campus Box 3265, Chapel Hill, NC27599, USA

Abstract

Nobel laureate James Buchanan downplays any theory of ethical politicians, focusing instead on rules which economize personal restraint, setting lower moral expectations. Through a constructive critique of James Buchanan’s work, I argue these lowered expectations come at a cost: degraded character in politicians, leading to constitutional decay. Buchanan lacks a theory to address choices between (a) action which furthers the politician’s self-interest and (b) action which protects some already accepted, good rule, but which does not further their self-interest. I generate a theory of the Principled Politician, an agent characterized by a prior commitment to fair play.

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Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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