Rational Choice, Round Robin, and Rebellion: An Institutional Solution to the Problems of Revolution

Posted: 3 Jul 2007 Last revised: 28 Jul 2010

See all articles by Peter T. Leeson

Peter T. Leeson

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 28, 2010

Abstract

Two collective action problems plague successful revolution. On the one hand, would-be revolutionaries confront a "participation problem" whereby no rationally self-interested individual has an incentive to participate in rebellion. On the other hand, individuals face a "first-mover problem" whereby no rationally self-interested individual has an incentive to lead rebellion. This paper argues that 18th-century merchant sailors devised an institutional solution to these problems to facilitate maritime revolution and overthrow abusive captains. This institution was called a "Round Robin." Round Robins solved both the "participation problem" and the "first-mover problem" by aligning the interests of individual sailors desiring mutiny and restructuring the payoffs of leading vs. following maritime rebellion.

Suggested Citation

Leeson, Peter T., Rational Choice, Round Robin, and Rebellion: An Institutional Solution to the Problems of Revolution (July 28, 2010). Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Vol. 73, No. 3, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=998031

Peter T. Leeson (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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