Political Insurance for the (Relative) Poor: How Liberal Constitutionalism Could Resist Plutocracy

Fair value of equal political liberties is a key precondition for the legitimacy of a regime in liberal thought. This guarantee is breached whenever a group is consistently locked out of power. Given the convertibility, subtlety, and resilience of power, gross material inequality—produced by neoliberal economic policies—effectively locks the relative poor out of political power. Neoliberal democracies, sooner or later, become plutocracies. This is a concern not only for liberal political theory but also for liberal constitutionalism. The usual objections to a constitutional concern with gross inequality and plutocracy provide useful design instructions, but do not rule out the constitutionalisation of egalitarian and anti-plutocratic norms. This paper clarifies how the whole panoply of legal and political constitutional measures— drawn from liberal constitutional thought and worldwide practice —could be marshaled to effectively promote material equality and prevent plutocracy.