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Constitution or Conflict?

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  • Herschel I. Grossman

Abstract

A self-enforcing constitution creates a political process that provides an alternative to civil conflict for resolving disputes among the constituent groups of the polity. This paper is concerned with discovering the conditions under which it is possible to design such a self-enforcing constitution. The paper is also concerned with discovering generic features of a self-enforcing constitution. The analysis yields the following theoretical propositions: If and only if (1) none of the parties to a dispute regards the dispute to be too important relative to the expected incremental cost of civil conflict and (2) no party has too big of an advantage in civil conflict, then the parties are able to resolve a dispute constitutionally. Also, under a constitution that is self enforcing the outcomes of constitutional contests for political power do not matter too much. The paper illustrates the relevance of the theoretical analysis by applying these propositions to two dramatic historical examples of constitutional failure: the secession of eleven Southern states from the Union in 1861 and the National Socialist revolution in Germany in 1933.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8733.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Publication status: published as Herschel I. Grossman, 2004. "Constitution or Conflict?," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 21(1), pages 29-42, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8733

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  1. Fortin, Pierre & Keil, Manfred & Symons, James, 2001. "The Sources of Unemployment in Canada, 1967-91: Evidence from a Panel of Regions and Demographic Groups," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(1), pages 67-93, January.
  2. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 6355.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Colin Jennings, 2007. "Political Leadership, Conflict and the Prospects for Constitutional Peace," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 83-94, January.
  2. Balla, Eliana & Reinhardt, Gina Yannitell, 2008. "Giving and Receiving Foreign Aid: Does Conflict Count?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2566-2585, December.
  3. Herschel I. Grossman, 2013. "Choosing Between Peace and War," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 765-783, November.
  4. Kumar, Vikas, 2011. "Negotiating constitutions for political unions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 58-76, March.
  5. Herschel I. Grossman, 2003. ". . . and six hundred thousand men were dead," NBER Working Papers 9793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Herschel I. Grossman, 2003. "Distributional Disputes and Civil Conflict," NBER Working Papers 9794, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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