Calhoun’s Concurrent Majority as a Generality

John C. Calhoun Statue

Calhoun’s Concurrent Majority as a Generality

Norm Alexander William Salter

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the political philosophy of John C. Calhoun from the perspective of Virginia Political Economy. Specifically, this paper argues that Calhoun’s theory of the concurrent majority offers a way of operationalizing the “generality norm” of Buchanan and Congleton (2003 [1988]). The analysis of this doctrine, which holds that constitutional democracy can only be preserved from majoritarian absolutism if minority interests have the power to check the power of majority coalitions, is this paper’s main purpose. The paper also discusses the most plausible way Calhoun’s recommendations can be put into practice in the United States by drawing on insights from his Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, in which he defends the social compact theory of the union and the benefits of federalism.

Salter, Alexander William, Calhoun’s Concurrent Majority as a Generality Norm (December 10, 2014). Constitutional Political Economy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

About the Author

I am a Southerner, a father, husband, and Christian and retired active duty Army field grade officer; I served for just over thirty years. I spent four years of my youth at The Citadel in Charleston. I am neither a theologian nor a professional historian. I do however ask many questions and endeavor to find answers and I believe, or at least hope, that I think critically and with the understanding that God provides.

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