In The Calculus of Consent, Buchanan and Tullock argue that their analysis of constitutional decision making has little relevance in a world with sharp clevages based on race, religion, and ethnicity. Instead, their analysis was based on the conditions that the rational decision makers entering into the constitutional stage were all treated as equal; with no group or sub-group in a permanent position of privilege. See pp. 80-81.
After publishing the Calculus and living through the turmoil of the 1960s, Buchanan and Tullock were going to write a follow up volume entitled The Calculus of Control. This volume never appeared, but you can see parts of the argument incorporated in a variety of works produced by them separately over the decades of the 1970-1980s -- from Academia in Anarchy to Limits of Liberty to The Reason of Rules: from The Social Dilemma to Autocracy.
But as we witness all the turmoil in America today, the questions for the political economist are first how do we understand the reasons for the turmoil using a model that attributes agency to the relevant actors, and then second how should we think about a resolution to the situation. One of the key issues is to first listen and understand from the respective perspectives the expectations that guide actions. Expectations matter more than alleged "facts"; in affairs of men, it is expectations after that guide actions after all. Expectations need not be "rational", nor are they by any means "irrational" -- they are I would argue "theory consistent" expectations. Based on the causal theories that various actors have about the world, they will form expectations and will update around that theory as they confront a refractatory reality. This is a core idea of "imperfect knowledge" economics, but it is also the basic idea within a much older tradition of expectations in economics that can be found in Knight, Keynes, and Mises.
As a historical-factual matter, the clevages along racial, religious and ethnic lines might be demonstrably far less than in the past, but in terms of divergent expectations it appears that the clevages have grown worse and in some fundamental sense are unbridgeable. Thus, we must begin with the reality of the perception of the sharp social clevages that define our current situation. What matters to move back from The Calculus of Control to The Calculus of Consent is to shift the expectations once again so that the constitutional bargaining partners view themselves as equals. In the Buchanan framework, it is rules that create expectations and it is expectations the guide actions. So what rule changes can we contemplate that could shift the expectations so that actors with sharp divisions can nevertheless see themselves as equals in the calculus of consent?
First, a renewed appreciation for federalism and local public economies might be in order.
Second, community police initiatives not confused and corrupted by the federal government funding for the war on drugs and the war on terror.
Third, a reconsideration of what public safety entails in a self-governing democratic society. Policing in general must be rehought, including and most importantly the militarization of police. Perhaps such a heavily armed police force is inconsistent with a self-governing democratic society and only consistent with a full police state.
Fourth, perhaps this should be listed earlier, though this list is not meant to be priority driven, but ending the "war on drugs" and the "war on terror" would do a lot to eliminate so-called cause for police to escalate a lot of otherwise seemingly trivial violations into situations with violence and unfortunately the use of deadly force. The use of deadly force is in all of the highlighted cases, actually a violation of the constitutional right to due process, etc. In short, police in these situations become judge, jury and executioner in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. This is not an anti-police point, it is however a rule of law point. It is simple not the role of police in self-governing democratic society to unleash deadly force even in the most tense moments.
I am sure there are many other steps, and not all related to the police-citizen interactions, but citizen-citizen interactions, including those related to the economy such as eliminating policies that have hampered the labor market and curtailed economic opportunities for some disadvantaged groups. It is always important to remember that if you cut off the bottom of the economic ladder, you effectively stop many from ever being able to climb the economic ladder. In that situation, how do you expect expectations to ever shift away from being divided along the lines of those who have and those who don't have. We should all collectively asking ourselves: What happens to societies when work disappears?
We want to live in a world of the calculus of consent, and not in a world governed by the calculus of control. But unless we can shift expectations from the bottom up, the sort of agreements required us to accept rules that allow us to live better together rather than apart will be absent, the sharp clevages will divide us, and productive specialization and peaceful cooperation will elude us. Such a social system will fall apart, will grow poorer, less safe, and provide little opportunity for betterment of the human condition. The stakes are quite high, and we still have an accumulated surplus fund that has yet to be eroded due to stupid public policies, but we are on our way. But political economy in its finest can actually guide us pass the abyss and lead us to a promise of a better world where our differences don't divide, but enable us to realize gains unheard of in a world without any diversity.
We need to fix the rules today, so that our tomorrow will be much better than our today.