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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.

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Article provided by Econ Journal Watch in its journal Econ Journal Watch.

Volume (Year): 4 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 169-183

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Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:4:y:2007:i:2:p:169-183
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  1. James M. Buchanan, 1954. "Individual Choice in Voting and the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 334.
  2. 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.
  3. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  4. 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.
  5. Pommerehne, Werner W. & Frey, Bruno S., 1977. "Bureaucratic behavior in democracy: A case study," Discussion Papers, Series I 104, University of Konstanz, Department of Economics.
  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. John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-206, Spring.
  9. Mueller, Dennis C., 1978. "Voting by veto," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 57-75, August.
  10. 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.
  11. 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, 05.
  12. Niskanen, William A, 1975. "Bureaucrats and Politicians," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 617-43, December.
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