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Constitution or Conflict?

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  • Herschel I. Grossman

Abstract

A self-enforcing constitution creates a political process that provides an alternative to civil conflict for resolving disputes among the constituent groups of the polity. This paper is concerned with discovering the conditions under which it is possible to design such a self-enforcing constitution. The paper is also concerned with discovering generic features of a self-enforcing constitution. The analysis yields the following theoretical propositions: If and only if (1) none of the parties to a dispute regards the dispute to be too important relative to the expected incremental cost of civil conflict and (2) no party has too big of an advantage in civil conflict, then the parties are able to resolve a dispute constitutionally. Also, under a constitution that is self enforcing the outcomes of constitutional contests for political power do not matter too much. The paper illustrates the relevance of the theoretical analysis by applying these propositions to two dramatic historical examples of constitutional failure: the secession of eleven Southern states from the Union in 1861 and the National Socialist revolution in Germany in 1933.

Suggested Citation

  • Herschel I. Grossman, 2002. "Constitution or Conflict?," NBER Working Papers 8733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8733
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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. Herschel I. Grossman, 2013. "Choosing Between Peace and War," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 765-783, November.
    4. Kumar, Vikas, 2011. "Negotiating constitutions for political unions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 58-76, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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