Rational Choice, Round Robin, and Rebellion: An Institutional Solution to the Problems of Revolution
Posted: 3 Jul 2007 Last revised: 28 Jul 2010
Date Written: July 28, 2010
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.
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