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Rational choice, Round Robin, and rebellion: An institutional solution to the problems of revolution

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  • Leeson, Peter T.

Abstract

Two collective action problems plague successful revolution. On the one hand, would-be revolutionaries confront a "participation problem," whereby no rationally self-interested individual has an incentive to participate in rebellion. On the other hand, individuals face a "first-mover problem" whereby no rationally self-interested individual has an incentive to lead rebellion. This paper argues that 18th-century merchant sailors who confronted these problems devised a novel institution to facilitate maritime revolution and assist them in overthrowing abusive captains. This institution was called a "Round Robin." Round Robins helped overcome both the participation and first-mover problems by aligning the interests of individual sailors desiring mutiny and restructuring the payoffs of leading versus following maritime rebellion.

Suggested Citation

  • Leeson, Peter T., 2010. "Rational choice, Round Robin, and rebellion: An institutional solution to the problems of revolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 297-307, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:73:y:2010:i:3:p:297-307
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gifford, Adam Jr., 1993. "The economic organization of 17th-through mid 19th-century whaling and shipping," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 137-150, February.
    2. Peter T. Leeson, 2007. "Trading with Bandits," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 303-321.
    3. Peter T. Leeson, 2009. "The Laws of Lawlessness," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 471-503, June.
    4. Timur Kuran, 1989. "Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(1), pages 41-74, April.
    5. Kuran, Timur, 1991. "The East European Revolution of 1989: Is It Surprising That We Were Surprised?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 121-125, May.
    6. J. Gunning, 1972. "An economic approach to riot analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 31-46, September.
    7. Leeson, Peter T. & Boettke, Peter J., 2009. "Two-tiered entrepreneurship and economic development," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 252-259, September.
    8. Peter Leeson, 2007. "Efficient anarchy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 41-53, January.
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    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:81:y:1987:i:02:p:557-564_19 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Leeson, Peter T., 2005. "Self-enforcing arrangements in African political economy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 241-244, June.
    12. repec:cup:apsrev:v:80:y:1986:i:02:p:471-487_18 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Chalmers, James A & Shelton, Robert B, 1975. "An Economic Analysis of Riot Participation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(3), pages 322-336, September.
    14. Peter T. Leeson, 2008. "Social Distance and Self-Enforcing Exchange," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 161-188, January.
    15. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:03:p:885-903_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. John Geanakoplos, 1992. "Common Knowledge," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 53-82, Fall.
    17. Peter Leeson, 2009. "The calculus of piratical consent: the myth of the myth of social contract," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 139(3), pages 443-459, June.
    18. Peter T. Leeson, 2007. "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 1049-1094, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, 2013. "It’s the weather, stupid! Individual participation in collective May Day demonstrations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 251-271, June.
    2. Leeson, Peter T. & Nowrasteh, Alex, 2011. "Was privateering plunder efficient?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 303-317, August.
    3. Joshua R. Hendrickson & Alexander William Salter, 2016. "A Theory of Why the Ruthless Revolt," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(3), pages 295-316, November.
    4. Leeson, Peter T., 2010. "Pirational choice: The economics of infamous pirate practices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 497-510, December.

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