Constraining Elites: The Self-Enforcing Constitution of the Patricians of Venice
29 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016 Last revised: 21 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 15, 2017
Can elites with access to governing institutions be constitutionally constrained? Effective constitutional constraints must be self-enforcing. This represents a substantial barrier to economic development, especially when elites control governing institutions. This paper analyzes how late Middle Age and Renaissance era Venice achieved economic prosperity despite being ruled by elite patricians. We argue that Venetian constitutional constraints, including the dispersion of power, complicated electoral procedures, term limits, and oaths of office, were self-enforcing because of mechanisms that incentivized elites to monitor and constrain one another.
Keywords: Constitutions, Constraints, Elites, Venice
JEL Classification: H1, 043, P48, N43
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation