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Bargaining and Constitutional Contracts

Douglas D. Heckathorn and Steven M. Maser
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1987), pp. 142-168
DOI: 10.2307/2111328
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111328
Page Count: 27
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Bargaining and Constitutional Contracts
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Abstract

This paper introduces a conceptual framework for analyzing constitutional choice as a process of strategic bargaining over alternative contractual relations. Our intent is distinctly positive. We begin by identifying and correcting logical flaws in James Buchanan's contractual theory of constitutional choice, intending to make it much more effective as a vehicle for future research. To that end the framework we describe captures several essential features of political decision making which are present in bargaining situations but absent in Buchanan's work. This yields a concise statement of the conditions under which actors who are rational in both economic and broader political terms will create a government by contract. We refer throughout to the politics of the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the rights that emerged from compromises made there. The analysis includes a reformulation and extension of the synthesis proposed by Jillson and Eubanks of rationalist and materialist interpretations of the convention's debates and decisions.

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