The Calculus of Consent

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The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy is a book written by economists James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock in 1962. It is considered to be one of the classic works from the discipline of public choice in economics and political science. This work presents the basic principles of public choice theory.


  • Any theory of collective choice must attempt to explain or to describe the means through which conflicting interests are reconciled. In a genuine sense, economic theory is also a theory of collective choice, and, as such, provides us with an explanation of how separate individual interests are reconciled through the mechanism of trade or exchange.
    • 1. Introduction
  • The theory of collective choice can, at best, allow us to make some very rudimentary predictions concerning the structural characteristics of group decisions.
    • 1. Introduction
  • When we recognize that "constitutional" decisions themselves, which are necessarily collective, may also be reached under any of several decision-making rules, the same issue is confronted all over again. Moreover, in postulating a decision-making rule for constitutional choices, we face the same problem when we ask: How is the rule itself chosen?
    • 1. Introduction

Quotes about The Calculus of Consent[edit]

  • Tullock and I considered ourselves to be simply taking the tools of economics, looking at something like the structure of American politics in the way James Madison had envisioned it. That is, it was clearly not a majoritarian democracy, which would be the parliamentary model (which was the ideal, at that time especially, of all the political scientists), rather it was a sort of a constitutional structure. We were the first to start analyzing the Constitution from an economic point of view. There were other people who analyzed particular voting rules, like majority voting, but we put that in a constitutional structure and provided an argument for choices among voting rules. We concentrated on that. So, in a sense, I considered us to be simply writing out in modern economic terms more or less Madison's framework of what he wanted to do, as opposed to anything new and different. It turned out that nobody had looked at it in that way.

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