Moral Community and Moral Order

Developing Buchanan’s Multilevel Social Contract Theory


  • James Caton North Dakota State University, United States



This work aligns James Buchanan’s theory of social contract with the structure of Michael Moehler’s multilevel social contract. Most importantly, this work develops Buchanan’s notions of moral community and moral order. It identifies moral community as the vehicle of escape from moral anarchy, where community is established upon a system of rules akin to James Buchanan’s first-stage social contract. Moral order establishes the baseline treatment of non-members by members of a moral community and also provides a minimum standard for resolving disputes that are not resolved by the more robust social contract shared among community members. This work links the multilevel contract to polycentric social order, noting that polycentric systems may promote development of the moral order by enabling experimentation with and emulation of rules and rule systems made available by overlapping and adjacent institutions.

Author Biography

James Caton, North Dakota State University, United States

James Caton is an economist and professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University, where he is also a Faculty Fellow at the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise. His research focuses on entrepreneurship and monetary economics. He has published in scholarly journals including the Southern Economic Journal, the Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy and The Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation. He is a Fellow with the Sound Money Project at the American Institute for Economic Research.




How to Cite

Caton, J. (2020). Moral Community and Moral Order: Developing Buchanan’s Multilevel Social Contract Theory. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 13(2), 1–29.