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Behind the controversies that have marked the history of the idea of Economic Constitution emerges the highly political issue of the room for manoeuvre left to public authorities in the economic sphere. The notion thus encapsulates a fundamental tension: between democracy and rule of law, which model of legal ordering of the economy should prevail?

From physiocrats to neo-liberals, from the Weimar Republic to European integration, from national constitutions to Global Governance, this collective book invites us to explore the genealogy of the controversial concept of Economic Constitution. The result of this interdisciplinary dialogue is a comprehensive reflection on the legal and political issues at stake in the current constitutionalization of the market order in Europe.

Contributors are: Philippe Steiner, Guillaume Grégoire, Hugues Rabault, Peter C. Caldwell, Thomas Biebricher, Werner Bonefeld, Serge Audier, Vincent Valentin, Pieter van Cleynenbreugel, Xavier Miny, Frédéric Marty, Claire Mongouachon, Hans-Wolfgang Micklitz, Francesco Martucci, Michael Wilkinson, Hjalte Lokdam, Susanna Maria Cafaro, Peter Lindseth, Cristina Fasone, Pierre Nihoul, François Colly, Peter-Christian Müller-Graff, Tony Prosser, Damien Piron, Mahmoud Mohamed Salah, Stephen Gill, Thibault Biscahie, Sebastien Adalid, and Christian Joerges.

Derrière les controverses qui jalonnent l’histoire de l’idée de Constitution économique émerge la question éminemment politique de la marge de manœuvre laissée aux autorités publiques dans la sphère économique. La notion cristallise ainsi une tension fondamentale : entre démocratie et État de droit, quel doit être modèle d’organisation et d’ordonnancement juridique de l’économie?

Des physiocrates aux néolibéraux, de la République de Weimar à l’intégration européenne, des constitutions nationales à la Global Governance, cet ouvrage collectif nous invite dès lors à explorer la généalogie du concept polémique de Constitution économique. Les auteurs ouvrent alors, à travers un dialogue interdisciplinaire constant, une réflexion globale autour des enjeux juridiques et politiques du processus actuel de constitutionnalisation de l’ordre de marché en Europe.

Abstract

The term ‘economic constitution’ brings into contact two systems, modern democratic constitutionalism and the market economy. The constitution describes the processes of self-government, implying a polity’s freedom to shape itself – including its own economy. The market economy presumes a self-regulating system based on rules inherent to the market – which seems to preclude political interventions. A constitution that defers to a certain economic system relinquishes its political sovereignty; an economy that is open to the particular demands of a political system relinquishes its self-regulatory character. The term ‘economic constitution’ brings that contradiction into focus. The essay first reflects on Physiocracy as an example of an attempt to impose market rules from above, which ran aground on the real practices of society in the 18th century. Next, it examines the radicalism of the Weimar Constitution, which, for many Social Democrats, opened up the possibility of social and economic transformation from the ground up, and faced a reaction from both statists and economic liberals. Both cases raised the problem of how to articulate social-economic rules and political empowerment, especially within federations: the dilemma of the European Union as a system of economic rules and ‘constitutional’ structure.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe
Author:

Résumé

La Constitution belge et l’économie semblent être des corps étrangers l’un à l’autre. Sous l’angle des normes matérielles, le déficit constitutionnel est comblé en droit interne par le législateur spécial et la Cour constitutionnelle et en droit de l’Union par la primauté des normes de droit primaire et de droit dérivé. Le concept dominant est celui de la liberté économique qui peut être aménagée par les autorités étatiques sur le plan normatif ou via le capitalisme public. Ces deux interventions requièrent une habilitation législative qui est d’interprétation restrictive et qui doit respecter le principe d’égalité et de non-discrimination. Sous l’angle des normes organiques, deux questions plus particulières nous paraissent devoir être abordées en l’absence ici aussi de normes constitutionnelles. Comment les autorités indépendantes qui assurent la régulation économique trouvent-elles leur place dans l’ordre juridique belge alors qu’elles sont dotées du pouvoir réglementaire ? La Constitution permet-elle ou interdit-elle aux pouvoirs publics de prendre en charge des activités économiques et d’instituer à cet effet des services publics économiques et, à défaut, l’aspect structurel du capitalisme public trouve-t-il alors ses limites dans le droit de l’Union européenne ?

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe

Résumé

La ‘Constitution économique’ est une illusion, qu’il convient de désacraliser pour redonner toute son importance au pouvoir politique. L’échec ordolibéral initial d’une ‘constitution économique’ n’a pas empêché l’avènement d’une ‘Constitution économique néolibérale’. Le contenu de cette dernière est principalement constitutionnel : transformer l’État pour le soumettre au marché et ainsi permettre l’avènement d’une ‘méta-politique’, d’une idéologie dominante imposée juridiquement par le droit. Pour désacraliser cette ‘Constitution économique’, il convient de rappeler son rejet initial par la doctrine juridique, lors du colloque de Liège de 1970. Si la ‘Constitution économique néolibérale’ s’est imposée, c’est par une mutation des modalités de prise de décision politique. Celle-ci a été contrainte par des sources juridiques supra-législatives, internationales comme nationales, qui s’inspirent du dogme néolibéral et/ou reprennent les techniques du marché. Ce dernier devient l’un des gardiens – aux côtés des autorités indépendantes – des règles juridiques, et donc de l’idéologie, néolibérales. Pour autant, l’idée de supériorité du marché n’a pas résisté aux différentes crises que connaît le néolibéralisme. Elle tend cependant à être remplacée par l’idée de ‘Constitution écologique’, dont les ressorts autoritaires restent les mêmes que celle de ‘Constitution économique’.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe
Author:

Abstract

The contribution explores contemporary arguments about the scope of mass democracy in economic liberalism and expounds their origins in the liberal-conservative critique of the Weimar democratic welfare state, focusing on Carl Schmitt’s endorsement of the strong state as the prerequisite of sound economy. Like the founding ordoliberal thinkers, he characterized the Weimar welfare state as a weak state that had given in to the demands of recalcitrant social interests. He recognizes free economy as a genuine and indispensable political task and argues that the state can therefore not be an outgrowth of majoritarian democracy. Authoritarian liberalism is an argument about the indispensability of the liberal state as the independent power and authoritative guardian of the free economy. It recognizes the separation between state and society as fundamental to the constitution of a free economy and in this relationship, it identifies the state as the institution of institutions. It lays down the rules of conduct in a free economy and enforces the rules decides upon. Schmitt’s authoritarian critique of the mass-democratic legislative state and his endorsement of the executive state of the rights of property illuminates the political character of contemporary authoritarian liberalism and offers a cogent account of what is at stake.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe

Abstract

This contribution seeks to trace the significance of the concept of an economic institution in the neoliberal tradition. Three different phases from the inception of liberal discourse to contemporary times are distinguished. During the first phase the concept of an economic constitution is developed, particularly by ordoliberal thinkers, and is taken up in other currents of neoliberal thought, including the Chicago School. The second phase witnesses a decline of thinking in terms of economic constitution as ordoliberalism loses its influence within neoliberal discourse and Chicago thinkers discard the concept. A final phase is characterized by a rapprochement between Constitutional Political Economy as represented by James Buchanan and contemporary Freiburg School thought epitomized, first and foremost, by Viktor Vanberg, who concur in the continued significance of economic constitutionalism.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe

Abstract

Today primarily linked to European integration, the notion of ‘economic constitution’ stems nevertheless from the turbulent interwar period of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933). With a specific section dedicated to the ‘order of economic life’, the Weimar Constitution represents quite a unique constitutional configuration that blends liberal economic principles with social objectives and with a significant number of potentially collectivist provisions. This unstable balance gave rise to an intense doctrinal debate around the Wirtschaftsverfassung. The social-democratic scholars, led by Hugo Sinzheimer, advocated through this concept the politicization and democratization of the economy. Carl Schmitt and the conservative legal doctrine then radicalized the socialist definition of ‘economic constitution’, but to better reject it for the Weimar Republic: instead of expanding state intervention in the economy, they called for an authoritarian but self-limiting state that would subordinate the economy to its authority (through cartelization) while preserving a sphere of private economic freedom. Against both these positions, the (ordo)liberal Franz Böhm carried out a real theoretical coup de force: he endorsed the conservative critique, but subverted Schmitt’s analysis and proposed a truly liberal meaning of the Wirtschaftsverfassung, where the ‘strong state’ has to serve the market order and to apply the principles of the rule of law in the economy. This (neo)liberal understanding has prevailed since the end of World War II, notably with the European legal and economic integration, but seems to have entered a phase of growing opposition. Could the Weimar debates shed light on current issues?

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe

Abstract

Relying on the various contributions of this volume and informed by Karl Polanyi’s economic sociology, this conclusive reflection aims to lay the foundations of a theory that would take the “democratic command” induced by the interdependence between economy, society and law seriously. Building on this commitment and on the critique of current strands of (ordo- and neoliberal) economic constitutionalism, I will submit my own deliberations on a democratic transformation of economic constitutionalism. To this end, it is nevertheless necessary first to relativize the thesis of the “ordoliberalization” of Europe, which fails to grasp the singularity of the current crisis and thus prevents the emergence of alternative solutions. By contrast, a “Democracy-enhancing Conflicts-Law Constitutionalism” could give concrete expression to the motto of the unfortunate Draft Constitutional Treaty of 2004: unitas in pluralitate. The aim is indeed to guarantee the “liberty to organize national life at will” while taking into account, through deliberative supranationalism, the ever-increasing interaction between national political communities.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe

Abstract

The original constitution of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) rested on a neoliberal approach to interstate federalism à la Hayek. This approach appealed to political elites at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, promising to overcome the so-called ‘crisis of governability’ of the 1970s and early 1980s by constraining the capacity of Member States to respond to democratic demands, without at the same time constructing a comprehensive governmental apparatus at the European level. The original EMU thus sought to delink democratic legitimation from governmental capacity and to constrain what capacity was left. The Eurozone Crisis, however, introduced a ‘crisis of ungovernability’, revealing that the original constitutional framework had failed in several respects. In efforts to salvage it, European and domestic political elites and institutions sought to correct the capacity deficit but only while imposing, in an authoritarian fashion, neoliberal policies and reforms. While early signs in response to the Covid-19 crisis suggest that the ‘new EMU’ permits a departure from neoliberal prescriptions, the other deficit of EMU is as glaring as ever: democracy remains a problem to be overcome rather than a potential to be realized.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe

Abstract

As the Eurozone crisis amply demonstrated, one of the core limitations of European governance is the inability of the EU to mobilize resources on its own authority rather than using the Member States for this purpose. In this crucial respect, the EU has largely remained an (admittedly powerful) supranational technocratic and juristocratic (i.e. ‘administrative’) body. But it otherwise lacks the distinguishing attribute of ‘constitutional’ authority in the most robust sense: the capacity to mobilize fiscal and human resources in a legitimate and compulsory fashion. In our view, one should therefore avoid speaking of European governance in autonomously ‘constitutional’ terms (economic or otherwise), as that discourse leads to a profound misunderstanding of what a fundamentally administrative (i.e. ‘sub-constitutional’) EU can realistically and legitimately achieve on its own. We submit that the disconnect between the language of constitutionalism and the EU’s fundamentally administrative character is a core contradiction that the contributions of Francesco Martucci and of Hjalte Lokdam and Michael A. Wilkinson each highlight but do not name. Our purpose here is to bring that contradiction more squarely to the fore, even as we contemplate whether the response to the coronavirus pandemic introduces a potentially ‘constitutionalizing’ dynamic into European governance, even if it is one whose outcome remains, at this stage, difficult to foresee.

Open Access
In: The Idea of Economic Constitution in Europe