A Theory of Constitutional Standards and Civil Liberty
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.