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Two Sword Lengths Apart: Credible Commitment Problems and Physical Violence in Multi-party Elected National Legislatures


Christopher Gandrud


Hertie School of Governance

February 8, 2014


Abstract:     
Multi-party elected national legislatures should be venues for peacefully resolving conflicts be- tween opposing groups. However, they can sometimes become the scenes of physical violence between legislators. Such violence is an indication that a country’s legislative institutions are functioning far from perfectly as legislative actors are deciding to disregard the normal rules of the ‘game’. In this first global study of legislative violence, I argue that brawls are often the result of credible commitment problems where legislators find it difficult to credibly commit to follow peaceful bargaining outcomes, including non-violent legislative rules. The problem is exacerbated when legislatures are unfair. Unfairness is higher and credible commitment problems more acute in countries with disproportionate electoral outcomes and new democracies. I find robust evidence for this argument using a case study of legislative violence in the antebellum United States Senate and a new global data set of incidence from the 1980s into 2011.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: legislatures, violence, electoral proportionality, institutional design, democratic consolidation

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Date posted: April 23, 2012 ; Last revised: February 9, 2014

Suggested Citation

Gandrud, Christopher, Two Sword Lengths Apart: Credible Commitment Problems and Physical Violence in Multi-party Elected National Legislatures (February 8, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2044278 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2044278

Contact Information

Christopher Gandrud (Contact Author)
Hertie School of Governance ( email )
Schlossplatz 1
Berlin, 10178
Germany
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