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Solving Peel's Puzzle: Repeal of the Corn Laws and Institutional Preservation

Michael Lusztig
Comparative Politics
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Jul., 1995), pp. 393-408
DOI: 10.2307/422226
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/422226
Page Count: 16
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Solving Peel's Puzzle: Repeal of the Corn Laws and Institutional Preservation
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Abstract

Britain's repeal of the Corn Laws remains a puzzle within comparative political economy. While explanations have turned on international considerations, economic factors, and pressure group politics, none accounts for Robert Peel's seemingly irrational decision to sacrifice his government for the sake of a policy he long had opposed. Repeal was not a first-order preference for Peel. It was a by-product of his larger objective to preserve fundamental tenets of the British constitution—aristocratic government and a limited franchise—in the face of threat. Repeal of the Corn Laws must be understood in the context of split-level rationality, as a policy game within a game of institutional preservation.

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