Society & Politics

The Political Animal and the Ethics of Constitutional Commitment

Josh Chafetz

This article seeks to supplement Daryl Levinson’s article Parchment and Politics: The Positive Puzzle of Constitutional Commitment, which attempts to explain why people remain committed to “constitutionally prescribed governing structures when they produce substantive results at odds with [their] sentiments and passions” (2). While Levinson’s article highlights six public choice mechanisms – coordination, reputation, repeat-play, reciprocity, asset-specific investment, and positive political feedback – that promote institutional stability, his emphasis is solely on material interests and he neglects any discussion of political morality. Subsequently, Chafetz argues that public virtue and ethical reasoning is necessary not only for the continuation of and commitment to constitutionally prescribed government structures, but also for the development of good government. He does so by drawing attention to the content and influence (within the modern world) of Aristotelian concepts of public morality and republican virtue.

Source: Harvard Law Review

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