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The Economic Analysis of Constitutions: Fatalism Versus Vitalism


  • Charles B. Blankart
  • Gerrit B. Koester


We review the claim that the field of political economy has witnessed a quantum leap with Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini´s The Economic Effects of Constitutions. We find that the approach of Persson and Tabellini suffers from the neglect of previous research, notably in public choice tradition, a lack of a meaningful point of reference, and the disregard of individual liberty as a guiding principle. Their approach has only limited value for formulating, exploring, and judging institutional reforms, particularly reforms outside narrow bounds around the status quo of the liberal democracies.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles B. Blankart & Gerrit B. Koester, 2007. "The Economic Analysis of Constitutions: Fatalism Versus Vitalism," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 4(2), pages 169-183, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:4:y:2007:i:2:p:169-183

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Alesina & Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2006. "Reply to Blankart and Koester's Political Economics versus Public Choice Two Views of Political Economy in Competition," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 201-208, May.
    2. Pommerehne, Werner W & Frey, Bruno S, 1978. "Bureaucratic Behavior in Democracy: A Case Study," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 33(1-2), pages 98-112.
    3. Charles B. Blankart & Dennis C. Mueller, 2002. "Alternativen der parlamentarischen Demokratie," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 3(1), pages 1-21, February.
    4. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    5. Charles Blankart & Dennis Mueller, 2004. "The Advantages of Pure Forms of Parliamentary Democracy over Mixed Forms," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 121(3), pages 431-453, February.
    6. Dan Johansson, 2004. "Economics Without Entrepreneurship or Institutions: A Vocabulary Analysis of Graduate Textbooks," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 1(3), pages 515-538, December.
    7. Daron Acemoglu, 2005. "Constitutions, Politics and Economics: A Review Essay on Persson and Tabellini's "The Economic Effect of Constitutions"," NBER Working Papers 11235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:53:y:1959:i:01:p:69-105_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Persson, Torsten & Roland, Gerard & Tabellini, Guido, 1998. "Towards micropolitical foundations of public finance," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 685-694, May.
    10. Mueller, Dennis C., 1978. "Voting by veto," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 57-75, August.
    11. John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-206, Spring.
    12. Niskanen, William A, 1975. "Bureaucrats and Politicians," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 617-643, December.
    13. Ashenfelter, Orley C & Kelley, Stanley, Jr, 1975. "Determinants of Participation in Presidential Elections," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 695-733, December.
    14. James M. Buchanan, 1954. "Individual Choice in Voting and the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 334-334.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ringa Raudla, 2010. "Governing budgetary commons: what can we learn from Elinor Ostrom?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 201-221, December.

    More about this item


    Positive political economy; constitutional political economy; constitutional choice; general economic theory; public choice;

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government


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