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.
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