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An Analytic Choice Approach to Concurrent Majorities: The Relevance of John C. Calhoun's Theory for Institutional Design

Roberta Herzberg
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 54, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 54-81
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2131643
Page Count: 28
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An Analytic Choice Approach to Concurrent Majorities: The Relevance of John C. Calhoun's Theory for Institutional Design
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Abstract

John C. Calhoun proposed a constitutional design awarding each "major" interest in society a veto over government action, and thus assuring that no government action could occur at the expense of significant interests. This paper develops a simple formal model based on the assumptions and conditions outlined in Calhoun's theory to show that his design results in a decision process more stable than that expected under simple majority rule. Moreover, each interest included in the decision-making process would be protected against policy change that would make it worse off. By examining such a process in the simplified form used here, however, the problems unanswered by Calhoun become apparent and his response to such criticisms wholly inadequate. Three major concerns are evaluated--the assignment mechanism by which "major" interests would be identified; the problem of inaction; and the problem of collective action and inconsistency within veto groups.

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