Contrary to the claims of some of his critics, James Buchanan was an ardent democrat. In his paper “ Democracy Unchained: Contractualism, Individualism, and Independence in Buchanan’s Democratic Theory“ NOUS member John Trasher argues that Buchanan’s conception of democratic governance organized by a contractually justified constitution is highly distinctive because of his commitment to a strong conception of individualism. For Buchanan, democracy is neither justified instrumentally—by the goods it generates—nor by reference to some antecedent conception of justice. Instead, democracy is the only political option for a society that takes individualism seriously. One implication of this view is that democracies can only be limited by the rules they collectively give themselves in the form of constitutions. Thrasher explicate this conception of democracy and address some of its implications, assumptions, and challenges.

The full paper is available here.