Skip to main content

Constitutions as self-enforcing redistributive schemes


We present a model of a fiscal constitution (i.e., a transfer scheme between income classes) that is self-enforcing against a background in which predatory activities (‘revolutions’) are feasible. In this environment, a constitution self-enforces by structuring society’s interests in such a way that non- compliance necessarily results in a revolution which society would rather avoid.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Acemoglu D, Robinson J (2000) Why did the west extend the franchise? Democracy, inequality and growth in historical perspective. Q J Econ 115:1167–1199

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Azariadis C, Galasso V (2002) Fiscal constitutions. J Econ Theory 103:255–281

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barbera S, Jackson M (2004) Choosing how to choose: self-stable majority rules. Q J Econ 119:1011–1041

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bös D, Kolmar M (2003) Anarchy, efficiency and redistribution. J Public Econ 87:2431–2457

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cooper R (1999) Coordination games. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Falkinger J (1999) Social instability and redistribution of income. Eur J Polit Econ 15:35–51

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Geanakoplos J, Pearce D, Stachetti E (1989) Psychological games and sequential rationality. Games Econ Behav 1:60–79

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gershenson D, Grossman HI (2000) Civil conflict: ended or never ending? J Conflict Resolut 44:807–821

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gray J (1990) Rebellions and revolutions. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Grossman H (1991) A general equilibrium model of insurrections. Am Econ Rev 81:912–921

    Google Scholar 

  • Grossman H (1994) Production, apropriation, and land reform. Am Econ Rev 84:705–712

    Google Scholar 

  • Grossman H (1995) Robin Hood and the redistribution of property income. Eur J Polit Econ 11:399–410

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman H (2002) ‘Make us a King’: anarchy, predation, and the state. Eur J Polit Econ 18:31–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman H (2004) Constitution or conflict. Conflict Manag Peace Sci 21:29–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hirshleifer J (1995) Anarchy and its breakdown. J Polit Econ 103:26–52

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kölm S (1996) Modern theories of justice. The MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Kolmar M (2000) Constitutions as commitment or coordination device? Comment on C. Azariadis and V. Galasso: constitutional ‘Rules’ and intergenerational fiscal policy. Constit Polit Econ 11:371–374

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marshall A (1920) Principles of economics. Macmillan, London

    Google Scholar 

  • McCaa R (2003) Missing millions: the demographic costs of the Mexican revolution. Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 19:367–400

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moseley G (1968) China: Empire to People’s Republic. B.T. Batsford Ltd., London

  • Meyer L (2000) La institucionalización del nuevo régimen. in Centro de Estudios Históricos, Historia General de México, México: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Históricos, pp 823–872

  • Persson T, Tabellini G (1996) Federal fiscal constitutions: risk sharing and moral Hazard. Econometrica 64:623–646

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rawls J (1999) In: Freeman S (ed) Collected papers. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  • Rousseau JJ (1762) The social contract. Translated by C.E.Vaughan. Reprint, Manchester, 1947

  • Roemer J (1985) Rationalizing revolutionary ideology. Econometrica 53:85–108

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rowley CK (1988) Rent seeking versus directly unproductive profit-seeking activities. In: Rowley CK, Tollison RD, Tullock G (eds) The political economy of rent-seeking. Kluwer, Boston/Dordrecht/Lancaster

  • Skaperdas St (1992) Cooperation and conflict in the absence of property rights. Am Econ Rev 82:720–739

    Google Scholar 

  • Skyrms B (1996) Evolution of the social contract. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jaume Sempere.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Filipovich, D., Sempere, J. Constitutions as self-enforcing redistributive schemes. Economics of Governance 9, 103–129 (2008).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Anarchy
  • Constitutions
  • Redistribution
  • Self-enforcement

JEL Classification

  • D23
  • D30
  • D74
  • H10