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Constitutional Rules


  • Francesco Giovannoni
  • Toke S. Aidt


This paper proposes a normative theory of constitutional rules. We characterize the set of optimal constitutional rules under different assumptions about the degree of contractual imperfections. Our model explains why constitutions contain different types of rules. In particular, we derive conditions under which it is optimal, in addition to a standard decision rule (e.g., simple majority), to introduce veto rules (that block certain types of decisions) and supermajority rules (that allow the veto rule to be overruled). Our model also explains the existence of amendment rules and checks and balances

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Giovannoni & Toke S. Aidt, 2004. "Constitutional Rules," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 540, Econometric Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:nasm04:540

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2010. "Endogenous Constitutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(543), pages 1-39, March.
    2. Torsten Persson & Gérard Roland & Guido Tabellini, 1997. "Separation of Powers and Political Accountability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1163-1202.
    3. Salvador Barbera & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Choosing How to Choose: Self Stable Majority Rules," Microeconomics 0211003, EconWPA.
    4. Matthias Messner & Mattias K. Polborn, 2004. "Voting on Majority Rules," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 115-132.
    5. Voigt, Stefan, 1997. "Positive Constitutional Economics: A Survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 90(1-4), pages 11-53, March.
    6. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1999. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 115-138.
    7. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton, 2003. "Incomplete Social Contracts," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(1), pages 38-67, March.
    8. Philippe Aghion & Alberto Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Endogenous Political Institutions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 565-611.
    9. Salvador Barbera & Matthew O. Jackson, 2004. "Choosing How to Choose: Self-Stable Majority Rules and Constitutions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 1011-1048.
    10. Hans Gersbach, 2002. "Democratic Mechanisms: Double Majority Rules and Flexible Agenda Costs," CESifo Working Paper Series 749, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Giovanni Maggi & Massimo Morelli, 2006. "Self-Enforcing Voting in International Organizations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1137-1158, September.
    12. Giovannoni, Francesco, 2003. "Amendment Rules in Constitutions," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 115(1-2), pages 37-61, April.
    13. Mueller, Dennis C, 1991. "Constitutional Rights," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 313-333, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. Toke Aidt & Francesco Giovannoni, 2011. "Critical decisions and constitutional rules," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 37(2), pages 219-268, July.

    More about this item


    Constitutions; constitutional design; social contracts; majority rules; amendments; checks and balances;

    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D - Microeconomics

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