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A Theory of Constitutional Standards and Civil Liberty


  • Roger Lagunoff

    (Georgetown University)


Why would potentially intolerant majorities in a democracy protect the rights of unpopular groups or minorities? This paper postulates a dynamic agency model in which potentially tolerant legal standards emerge over time, despite all individuals' having intolerant views. Individuals in society make repeated choices which have social impact. A majority vote each period determines which of these activities are protected. Imperfect observability or interpretability of these activities necessitates that the dominant groups will not impose standards which are too intolerant, otherwise they may end up severely punishing members of their own group by mistake. We examine the Markov Perfect equilibria of a dynamic game in which there is potential turnover in the dominant group, and government improves with time in its ability to correctly observe and interpret citizens' activities. It is shown that societies with nonstationary population characteristics may be more amenable to stable and tolerant standards, while societies with stationary characteristics are more apt to choose more intolerant and unstable ones. Tolerant and stable standards tend to arise in response to a risk sharing motive between the different groups that tradeoff political power. Each group seeks to prevent auditing capabilities of government from improving too much over time in order to prevent future majorities from successfully enforcing more intolerant standards.

Suggested Citation

  • Roger Lagunoff, 1997. "A Theory of Constitutional Standards and Civil Liberty," Game Theory and Information 9707004, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpga:9707004
    Note: Type of Document - Tex; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on HP;

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    Cited by:

    1. Carlos Scartascini & Mariano Tommasi, 2009. "The Making of Policy: Institutionalized or Not?," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 1129, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. Lagunoff, Roger, 2009. "Dynamic stability and reform of political institutions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 569-583, November.
    3. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson & Marta Reynal-Querol, 2016. "Resilient Leaders and Institutional Reform: Theory and Evidence," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(332), pages 584-623, October.
    4. Roger Lagunoff (Georgetown University), 2005. "Markov Equilibrium in Models of Dynamic Endogenous Political Institutions," Working Papers gueconwpa~05-05-07, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    5. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2009. "The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1218-1244, September.
    6. T. Renee Bowen & Zaki Zahran, 2006. "On Dynamic Compromise," Working Papers gueconwpa~06-06-10, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    7. Roger Lagunoff, 2004. "The Dynamic Reform of Political Institutions," Econometric Society 2004 Latin American Meetings 47, Econometric Society.
    8. Kim, Sang-Hyun, 2016. "On the optimal social contract: Agency costs of self-government," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 982-1001.
    9. Sang-Hyun Kim, 2014. "On the Optimal Social Contract: Agency Costs of Self-Government," University of East Anglia Applied and Financial Economics Working Paper Series 059, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    10. Ascensión Andina Díaz & Francesco Feri & Miguel A. Meléndez-Jiménez, 2018. "Institutional flexibility, political alternation and middle-of-the-road policies," Working Papers 2018-07, Universidad de Málaga, Department of Economic Theory, Málaga Economic Theory Research Center.
    11. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2016. "Statehood, democracy and preindustrial development," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 58-72.
    12. repec:eee:pubeco:v:152:y:2017:i:c:p:93-101 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty


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