Long Live the King? Death as a Term Limit on Executives

46 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2018 Last revised: 13 Mar 2018

See all articles by Daniel J. Smith

Daniel J. Smith

Middle Tennessee State University - Department of Economics and Finance

George R. Crowley

Troy University - Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy

Sebastian Leguizamon

Western Kentucky University

Date Written: February 22, 2018

Abstract

Can informal term limits place binding constraints on executives? And, are there conditions under which an electorate would forego formal term limits in favor of informal term limits? Formal term limits face three primary problems: they can be dispensed by powerful executives, they limit electorate discretion on term length, and they artificially shorten an executive’s time horizon. This paper extends the literature on term limits by building a model of informal term limits which overcomes these deficiencies. Our model demonstrates that an electorate could use the death of a lifetime-appointed executive, based on their projected life expectancy, to enforce binding, informal term limits. Informal term limits would enable the electorate to exercise discretion in adjusting tenure lengths when considering the tradeoff between the expected benefits of regime stability, such as experience, and the expected costs of long tenures, including the possibility of tyranny. In addition, this informal term limit would be congruent with an executive’s natural time horizon. Informal term limits would be most advantageous to an electorate fearful of both internal (tyranny) and external (military conquest) threats. A case study of ducal elections in late Middle Age and Renaissance Venice provides evidence of an electorate in this circumstance, the patricians of Venice, imposing informal term limits on their executives utilizing the projected life expectancy of ducal candidates at election.

Keywords: Term Limits, Public Choice, Medieval and Renaissance Venice, Economic History

JEL Classification: D7, H1, N4

Suggested Citation

Smith, Daniel J. and Crowley, George R. and Leguizamon, Sebastian, Long Live the King? Death as a Term Limit on Executives (February 22, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3128221 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3128221

Daniel J. Smith (Contact Author)

Middle Tennessee State University - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

MTSU Box 27
1301 E. Main St.
Murfreesboro, TN 37132-0001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.danieljosephsmith.com/

George R. Crowley

Troy University - Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy ( email )

Bibb Graves Hall
Troy, AL 36082
United States

Sebastian Leguizamon

Western Kentucky University ( email )

Bowling Green, KY
United States

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