Two Sword Lengths Apart: Credible Commitment Problems and Physical Violence in Multi-party Elected National Legislatures
Hertie School of Governance
February 8, 2014
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 consolidationworking papers series
Date posted: April 23, 2012 ; Last revised: February 9, 2014
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