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Institutional Change as a Sophisticated Strategy

Evelyn C. Fink

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1995, vol. 7, issue 4, 477-510

Abstract: This paper examines a historical case of institutional change, the development of the Bill of Rights, and claims that change may occur as a form of strategic political concession. Understanding why institutional change occurs has generally led to explanations that focus on the desirable properties of any rule change. The presumption is that those with power change rules only to advantage themselves. In this analysis, an alternative reason for institutional change is developed from the genesis of the Bill of Rights. The offer of institutional change is formally conceptualized as the strategic choice of political parties to enact changes to forestall a hostile and potentially growing minority. The historical and statistical analysis of the development of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution demonstrates that the change was made primarily for its political purpose of reducing political opposition and less for its effect on future policy outcomes. This finding challenges current work on endogenous rule change that assumes rule changes occur solely for the purpose of enacting sincerely preferred policy outcomes.

Keywords: institutional change; party politics; sophisticated behavior; Bills of Rights (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1995
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