Demand for Constitutional Decentralization

Eric Alston (University of Colorado Boulder)

Abstract : Increasingly, decentralization has proven to be a policy fix selected by developing countries whose new governments represent a significant regime change. This analysis adds to the literature on decentralization by identifying the extent to which factors that lead to divergent policy preferences result in greater definition of decentralization in a given constitution. The principle of subsidiarity suggests that the more localities and regions vary from each other, either in terms of population, language, religion, or resource endowments, the more likely these populations’ policy preferences differ. If this implication holds, one would expect the benefits of subsidiarity, and hence, decentralization to increase in such situations. As a result, one would expect pressures for decentralization on constitutional drafters to increase with a country’s size, population, terrain ruggedness, number of ethnicities and religions, and regional variance in wealth. I test several aspects of this hypothesis, based upon initial data from 48 Muslim countries’ constitutions. Beyond the noteworthy conclusion that population is more important than territorial size in determining constitutional definition of subnational government, the results also suggest linguistic divides play an important role in determining the heterogeneity of policy preferences within a given nation, more so than simple ethnic diversity.

National Conflict in a Federal System

Sanford Gordon (NYU)
Dimitri Landa (NYU)

Abstract : To explore the relationship between federalism and political conflict, we develop a model of two-level governance with interstate preference heterogeneity and cross-state externalities. States with high demand for public spending or regulation are better positioned to adjust state-level policies to compensate for perceived inadequacies in national policy than states with low demand. Concurrently, the ability of states to free-ride on other states’ policies disproportionally reduces low-demanding states’ preference for national policy solutions. We show that, given these asymmetries, (1) polarization of the representatives from those states in a national legislature may be higher in federal than unitary systems, even holding policy demand constant; and (2) the incentives for officials from low- and high-demand states to engage in unproductive conflict are contingent on the status quo national level of policy, and may be higher under federalism than unitary governance – contrary to the common understanding of federalism as a conflict-mitigating institutional form. The model helps account for a number of empirical regularities in U.S. politics and policymaking.

Taking Sides: the Political Economy of Solon’s Law for Civil Wars

Soeren Schwuchow (Brandenburg University of Technology)
George Tridimas (Ulster University)

Abstract : In 594 BCE the Athenian statesman Solon defused a grave social crisis by introducing wide-ranging constitutional, political and economic reforms which granted various rights to a nascent ‘middle class’ and reduced the power of the wealthy birth aristocracy. Solon’s reforms included a law which perhaps counter-intuitively banned citizens from staying neutral in cases of civil conflict. After reviewing aspects of the law against neutrality debated by historians, the present paper employs the methodology of the economics of conflict to investigate the implications of the law for the stability of the constitutional order initiated by Solon. We examine a stylised model of three social classes, Rich, Middle and Poor, where the former two compete for control of the government, and the Poor may decide to stay neutral or side with either the Middle or the Rich. By solving the model we identify conditions for the Rich to accept the Solonian order or reject it and mount a coup.