Mutual Advantage

Russell Hardin

in Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy

Published in print November 1999 | ISBN: 9780198290841
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599415 | DOI:
 Mutual Advantage

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Theories of liberalism, constitutionalism, and democracy are mutual advantage theories. Liberalism is about arranging institutions to allow all of us to prosper in our own individual ways. Political liberalism was partly invented in response to religious claims that some ways of believing should be suppressed, and economic liberalism grew and was eventually more or less institutionalized in government policy because it caused all to prosper through the prosperity of each. Constitutionalism works when and only when it serves to coordinate a population on some matters, such as social order, commerce, and national defense that are more important than the issues on which they might differ. Similarly, democracy works only when there are no deeply divisive issues that override the value of order and other very generally advantageous values. The pre‐eminent theorists of mutual advantage are Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Adam Smith, although there are many strands of mutual advantage arguments in virtually all of political theory and in the predominant school of economic theory of the past several centuries in Scotland and England, Western Europe, North America, and, recently, most of the world.

Keywords: commerce; constitutionalism; democracy; liberalism; mutual advantage; social order

Chapter.  16390 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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