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Distributional Disputes and Civil Conflict

Some polities are able to use constitutionally prescribed political processes to settle distributional disputes, whereas in other polities distributional disputes result in civil conflict. Theoretical analysis reveals that the following properties help to make it possible to design a self-enforcing constitution that can settle recurring distributional disputes between social classes without civil conflict: *Neither social class has a big advantage in civil conflict. *The expected incremental costs of civil conflict are large relative to aggregate appropriable economic rents. *Both social classes 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 the distribution of appropriable economic rents under the constitution is not too favorable to one social class or the other and such that the outcome of a constitutional contest does not matter too much for the current distribution of economic rents.

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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2003-14.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2003-14
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Jeremy A.Rogoff Bulow & Kenneth, 1986. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 43, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  2. Buchanan, James M & Faith, Roger L, 1987. "Secession and the Limits of Taxation: Toward a Theory of Internal Exit," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 1023-31, December.
  3. Herschel I. Grossman, 2002. "Constitution or Conflict?," NBER Working Papers 8733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
  6. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2001. "Social decision rules are not immune to conflict," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 59-67, 03.
  7. Herschel I. Grossman, 2013. "Choosing Between Peace and War," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 765-783, November.
  8. Avinash Dixit & Gene M. Grossman & Faruk Gul, 2000. "The Dynamics of Political Compromise," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 531-568, June.
  9. Dimitriy Gershenson & Herschel I. Grossman, 1999. "Civil Conflict: Ended Or Never Ending?," Working Papers 99-31, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  10. Grossman, Herschel I, 1999. "Kleptocracy and Revolutions," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 267-83, April.
  11. Alberto Alesina & Enrico Spolaore, 1995. "On the Number and Size of Nations," NBER Working Papers 5050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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