Democracy in America: Labor Mobility, Ideology, and Constitutional Reform
Roger D. Congleton
West Virginia University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice
January 27, 2009
Constitutional democracy in the United States emerged slowly through a longer series of constitutional reforms than most lawyers, economists, and political scientists appreciate. The first major reform was adopted in 1619, and reforms continued for the next three centuries. No evolutions or revolutionary threats were necessary or evident during most of the transition to constitutional democracy with universal adult suffrage. As in Europe, legislative authority gradually increased, wealth-based suffrage laws were gradually eliminated, the secret ballot was introduced, and the power of elected officials increased. This paper suggests that a theory of constitutional exchange grounded in rational choice models provides a good explanation for the distinctive features of American constitutional history, as it does for much of the West, although it does less well at explaining the timing of some reforms.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: constitutional history, constitutional exchange, public choice, U.S. Constitution, constitutional political economy
JEL Classification: D7
Date posted: July 27, 2007 ; Last revised: October 6, 2009
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