Self-Enforcing Consititutions: With an Application to Democratic Stability in America's First Century

41 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2008

See all articles by Barry R. Weingast

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: November 2005

Abstract

Most students of constitutions focus on normative questions or study the effects of particular constitutional provisions. This paper falls into a third and much smaller tradition that attempts to study what makes some constitutions more likely to survive. This paper develops a theory of self-enforcing constitutions and then applies it to the early United States. I argue that, but for the issue of slavery, constitutional democracy in the United States was self-enforcing by about 1800. Nonetheless, crises over slavery threatened the nation on numerous occasions. The Civil War decisively ended slavery as a source of political division, allowing self-enforcing democracy (for white males) to reemerge following the Compromise of 1877.

Suggested Citation

Weingast, Barry R., Self-Enforcing Consititutions: With an Application to Democratic Stability in America's First Century (November 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1153527 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1153527

Barry R. Weingast (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
650-723-0497 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.stanford.edu/group/mcnollgast/cgi-bin/wordpress/

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