Commentary on "The Quest for Meaning in Public Choice" by Elinor Ostrom and Vincent Ostrom
The Ostroms have created a paper that goes to the very heart of the public choice enterprise. They suggest that we should conceive of the evolution of constitutional procedures and laws in analogy with biological evolution. One of the paper's central goals is to establish the logical foundations of political order. I take this goal seriously and compare explicitly the task of explaining order in biology and politics. In the case of biology, the task of evolutionary theory has been to give an account of why there are complex arrangements of genetic material called "organisms" (including humans, giraffes, and whales) rather than just a nutrient-rich primordial ooze with no apparent structure. For the social scientist, the task is to explain why there are rules, structure, and stability in societies.
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