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Constitution or Conflict?

Author

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  • Herschel I. Grossman

    (Department of Economics Brown University Providence, Rhode Island, USA, herschel_grossman@brown.edu)

Abstract

Constitutional resolution of disputes between constituent groups of a polity avoids the incremental costs of civil conflict. But, the political process prescribed by a constitution provides a viable alternative to civil conflict only if the constitution is self-enforcing. Theoretical analysis reveals that the following properties help to make it possible to design a self-enforcing constitution that can settle recurring disputes: • No party to the disputes has a big advantage in civil conflict. • The parties to the disputes expect the incremental costs of civil conflict to be large relative to the importance of the disputes that arise between them. • The parties are greatly concerned about the future consequences of their current actions. Theoretical analysis also reveals that a self-enforcing constitution can require limitations on the prerogatives of winners of constitutional contests such that on average outcomes under the constitution are not too favorable to any one party and such that the outcome of each constitutional contest does not matter too much. The paper concludes with historical examples that illustrate the broad applicability of the theoretical analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • 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:sae:compsc:v:21:y:2004:i:1:p:29-42
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
    3. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 6355.
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    Cited by:

    1. Balla, Eliana & Reinhardt, Gina Yannitell, 2008. "Giving and Receiving Foreign Aid: Does Conflict Count?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2566-2585, December.
    2. Przeworski, Adam & Rivero, Gonzalo & Xi, Tianyang, 2015. "Elections as a conflict processing mechanism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 235-248.
    3. Kumar, Vikas, 2011. "Negotiating constitutions for political unions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 58-76, March.
    4. Herschel I. Grossman, 2013. "Choosing Between Peace and War," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 765-783, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    self-enforcing constitution; civil conflict; American Civil War; National Socialist Revolution;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making

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