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Unpublished Paper
Constitutional Design and Law: The Political Economy of Cabinet and Congressional Government
Doctoral Dissertation, Yale Law School (1993)
  • Matthew S. R. Palmer
Abstract

The dissertation takes a political economy approach to constitutional design and legislation in the Westminster (Cabinet) and US (Congressional) models of government. Part I develops the economics of comparative political organization by constructing a theoretical framework for analyzing constitutional design. Part II applies the framework to distinguish the essences of the Cabinet and Congressional systems of constitutional design in the contexts of US and Canadian federal government. Part III analyzes the effects of the different constitutional designs on the processes of legislating in each system and on the substantive characteristics of legislation in each system. The analysis is subjected to a qualitative reality check based on more than 100 personal interviews conducted in Ottawa and Washington DC between August 1991 and January 1992.

The theoretical framework draws an analogy between democratic government and an unregulated, consumer-owned natural monopoly with respect to coercion. The imperatives of constitutional design are to maximize the efficiency with which government produces coercion while ensuring that a government is sufficiently representative that it does not abuse its monopolistic power through discriminating between groups of individuals. Cabinet government is founded in organizational hierarchy, analogous to a franchise-bidding scheme for controlling a natural monopoly, whereas Congressional government is founded in spontaneous transactions between broken-up political institutions. A Cabinet system is relatively oriented to efficiency in producing coercion while a Congressional system is relatively oriented to representativeness in mitigating the abuse of coercion.

In general, the efficiency bias of the Cabinet system is associated with a more orderly and systematic process of formulating public policy, and drafting, passing, implementing and interpreting legislation than is a Congressional system. Legislation produced by a Cabinet system tends to be more consistent, coherent, clear, and less ambiguous, but also less specific than that produced by a Congressional system. It also tends to be based on less public dialogue, to be formulated more quickly, and to be less stable across administrations, but more stable during an administration, than in a Congressional system. These differences pose different challenges to adherence to the rule of law in each system.

The Contents of the Dissertation are (in two PDFs):

[PDF 1 - 19MB]

INTRODUCTION

1 Political Economy and Cabinet and Congressional Government

I A FRAMEWORK OF CONSTITUTIONAL DESIGN AND LAW

2 Government and Law: A Monopoly of Coercion

3 Democracy and Constitutional Design: Constraining the Monopoly

II THE CONSTITUTIONAL DESIGN OF CABINET AND CONGRESSIONAL GOVERNMENT

4 Cabinet and Congressional Government: Organization versus Transactions

5 The Constitutional Design of Cabinet Government

[PDF 2 - 19MB]

6 The Constitutional Design of Congressional Government

III LEGISLATION IN CABINET AND CONGRESSIONAL GOVERNMENT

7 The Process of Legislating

8 The Substance of Legislation

CONCLUSIONS

9 Political Economy and Constitutional Design

Keywords
  • constitutional design,
  • political economy,
  • comparative constitutionalism
Publication Date
November, 1993
Citation Information
Matthew S. R. Palmer. "Constitutional Design and Law: The Political Economy of Cabinet and Congressional Government" Doctoral Dissertation, Yale Law School (1993)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/matthew-palmer/17/