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Constitution or Conflict?

  • Herschel I. Grossman

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8733.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Publication status: published as 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:nbr:nberwo:8733
Note: EFG
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  1. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 6355, April.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson, 1999. "A Theory of Political Transitions," Working papers 99-26, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
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