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Voting like your betters: the bandwagon effect in the diet of the Holy Roman Empire

Oliver Volckart

Economic History Working Papers from London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History

Abstract: Scholars agree that a core feature of the political style of the Holy Roman Empire was the focus on consensus, without which policies at the level of the Empire were impossible. The present article demonstrates that the consensus on which decisions of the imperial estates was based tended to be superficial and was often in danger of breaking down. This was because the diet’s open and sequential voting procedure allowed the bandwagon effect to distort outcomes. An analysis of the votes cast in the princes’ college of the diet of 1555 shows that low-status members of the college regularly imitated the decisions of high-status voters. Reforming the system would have required accepting that the members of the college were equals – an idea no one was prepared to countenance. Hence, superficial and transitory agreements remained a systematic feature of politics at the level of the Empire.

Keywords: bandwagon effect; voting; early modern parliamentarism; Holy Roman Empire (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H11 N43 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 31 pages
Date: 2021-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-his and nep-pol
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