Rules, Choice and Strategy

Rules, Choice and Strategy

The Political Economy of Italian Electoral Reform

The Locke Institute series

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

This topical book analyses the change of electoral rules in Italy from proportional representation toward plurality. While Italy is used as the illustrative case, the analysis has far-ranging theoretical and practical implications, and will therefore be of interest to academics and researchers of political economy, constitutionalism and public choice.

Chapter 9: Election Simulation and the Nature of Constitutional Choices

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice


Most democratic countries undertook fundamental reforms to their electoral systems more than fifty years ago. These countries are still using the principle of representation that was introduced during the first quarter of the twentieth century. This continuity is in part due to the high hurdles that must be cleared in most countries in order to undertake electoral reform. In fact, the principle of representation is often written into the constitution.1 Its reform, therefore, requires a qualified majority which, in turn, usually requires an agreement between the government and the opposition. This is the reason why some scholars have argued that electoral system reforms are usually the result of compromises between opposing political forces at a certain point in time (Nohlen, 1984, 1986; Shugart, 1992). Therefore, in this view the acceptance of an electoral system is not determined by its technical adequacy or theoretical consistency, but rather it is based on political compromise. Buchanan and Congleton (1998) suggest another approach in a recent book. They stress the distinction between unanimitarian constitutional politics and majoritarian post-constitutional politics. They focus on the fact that constitutional choices require bridging the gap between the pursuit of separately identified interests and agreement on rules that define the parameters within which social interaction will take place over a whole sequence of periods. This can be done either through the ‘veil of ignorance’ (Rawls, 1971; Harsanyi, 1975) and/or uncertainty (Buchanan and Tullock, 1962; Brennan and Buchanan, 1985). They argue that this is likely to occur...

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