Buchanan mentions at several points in his oeuvre the necessary role for a constitutional attitude. This attitude is both explanatory and evaluative; it explains why citizens value liberty but also highlights one of the necessary conditions for the stability of a free society. We argue that Buchanan’s idea of a ‘constitutional attitude’ is extremely relevant, though underdeveloped. Firstly, it remains an open question what exactly a constitutional attitude means in practice and it is unclear what kind of institutions would foster it. Secondly, we believe that the success of his constitutional political economy project depends on some account of moral learning. Although Buchanan stresses the individual aspect of the process of self-constitution, he doesn’t take sufficient account of how the institutional environment and our social relationships structure this process. We discuss to what extent a broadly neo-Aristotelian account of moral learning can provide a more robust foundation for Buchanan’s ideas.
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© 2021 The Association for Social Economics.
- James M. Buchanan
- Virtue Ethics
- constitutional attitude