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The Violent and the Weak: When Dictators Care About Social Contracts


  • Kirstein, Roland
  • Voigt, Stefan


This paper explores the conditions under which compliance with a social contract establishes an equilibrium in a society. It is assumed that society consists of two groups, one of which has a comparative advantage in using violence, whereas the other one has a comparative advantage in producing a private good. Violence can be used to produce security as well as to exploit the weaker group. Yet, exploitation is limited: it reduces the incentives of the exploited group to produce the private good and increases the chances of a revolution. A social contract consists of the exchange of security against a share of the private good, produced at a high level of effort. The model not only allows the derivation of conditions for either compliance or exploitation to occur, but also sheds light on the transition from one form of government to the other. Hence, it contributes to Positive Constitutional Economics, i.e., the research program that is interested in explaining the emergence and the change of constitutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirstein, Roland & Voigt, Stefan, 2000. "The Violent and the Weak: When Dictators Care About Social Contracts," CSLE Discussion Paper Series 2000-02, Saarland University, CSLE - Center for the Study of Law and Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:csledp:200002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dahlman, Carl J, 1979. "The Problem of Externality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 141-162, April.
    2. Kenneth Shepsle & Barry Weingast, 1981. "Structure-induced equilibrium and legislative choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 503-519, January.
    3. Deakin, S., 2011. "Legal Evolution: Integrating Economic and Systemic Approaches," Working Papers wp424, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    4. Deakin Simon, 2011. "Legal Evolution: Integrating Economic and Systemic Approaches," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 659-683, December.
    5. Sugden, Robert, 1989. "Spontaneous Order," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 85-97, Fall.
    6. Heiner, Ronald A, 1983. "The Origin of Predictable Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 560-595, September.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:74:y:1980:i:02:p:432-446_16 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. George J. Mailath, 1998. "Do People Play Nash Equilibrium? Lessons from Evolutionary Game Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1347-1374, September.
    9. Kunz, Harald, 1985. "Marktsystem und Information," Untersuchungen zur Ordnungstheorie und Ordnungspolitik, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen;Walter Eucken Institut, Freiburg, Germany, edition 1, volume 20, number urn:isbn:9783163449169.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wockenfuß, Christof, 2009. "Demokratie durch Entwicklungskonkurrenz," Discussion Papers 2009-17, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Chair of Economic Ethics.
    2. Petros Sekeris, 2011. "Endogenous elites: power structure and patron-client relationships," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 237-258, September.
    3. Wockenfuß Christof, 2010. "Demokratie durch Entwicklungskonkurrenz. Ein ordnungspolitischer Beitrag zur internationalen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit / Democracy Through Development Competition. An Ordo-Liberal Perspective on the ," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 61(1), pages 325-352, January.

    More about this item


    self-enforcing contracts; rule of law; dictatorship; autocracy; Positive Constitutional Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government


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