Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 45–60 | Cite as

Constitutional secession clauses

  • Yan Chen
  • Peter C. Ordeshook


Taking the view that constitutions are devices whereby people coordinate to specific equilibria in circumstances that allow multiple equilibria, we show that a constitutional secession clause can serve as such a device and, therefore, that such a clause is more than an empty promise or an ineffectual threat. Employing a simple three-person recursive game, we establish that under certain conditions, this game possesses two equilibria—one in which a disadvantaged federal unit secedes and is not punished by the other units in the federation, and a second equilibrium in which this unit does not secede but is punished if it chooses to do so.

JEL classification



Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baron, D., and Ferejohn, J. (1989) “Bargaining in Legislatures.”American Political Science Review 83: 1181–1206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Buchanan, A. (1991)Secession: the Morality of Political Divorce from Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec. Westview Press: Boulder.Google Scholar
  3. Buchanan, J. M., and Tullock, G. (1962)The Calculus of Consent. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  4. Calhoun, J. C. [1953 (1853)]A Disquisition on Government. Edited by C. Gordon Post. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.Google Scholar
  5. Hardin, R. (1989) “Why a Constitution.” In: Grofman, B., and Wittman, B. (eds)The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism. N.Y.: Agathon Press.Google Scholar
  6. Lewis, D. (1969)Convention. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Myerson, R. (1991)Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Niou, E. M. S., and Ordeshook, P. C. (1991) “Realism Versus Neoliberalism: A Formulation.”American Journal of Political Science 35: 482–511.Google Scholar
  9. Ordeshook, P. C. (1992) “Constitutional Stability.”Constitutional Political Economy 3: 137–76.Google Scholar
  10. Sunstein, C. R. (1991) “Constitutionalism and Secession.”University of Chicago Law Review 58: 633–70.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© George Mason University 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yan Chen
    • 1
  • Peter C. Ordeshook
    • 1
  1. 1.California Institute of TechnologyPasadena

Personalised recommendations