The Lost Consensus: Unanimity Rule in the Institutional Context
23 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 15, 2012
Beginning in the second half of the 17th century any deputy could dismiss a session of the Polish-Lithuanian parliament by shouting: I do not allow. This political device came to be known as liberum veto, an unceasing subject of controversy. Historians blame it for the decline and subsequent collapse of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In contrast, public choice economists defend unanimity as an optimal rule of collective decision-making and a standard for policy evaluation in a free society. I argue that the role of formal rules depends on the institutional context in which they operate. As the historical circumstances evolved, so did the role and understanding of unanimity. I conclude that the rule of law cannot be protected by formal rules as these are subject to institutional erosion.
Keywords: unanimity, liberum veto, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, self-governance, rule of law, regime drift, formal and informal institutions
JEL Classification: B52, D72, N43, P48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation