A theory of self-governance: de facto constitutions as filters

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Alexander William SalterTexas Tech University, USA

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What is self-governance, and under what sets of institutions is it possible? This article explores this question from the perspective of informal (de facto) constitutionalism. The dominant approach, grounded in formal constitutionalism, overlooks crucial institutional features that determine whether governance is something done by individuals to themselves, as opposed to something done by some individuals to others. Understanding self-governance requires not only identifying the durable procedures for public decision-making, but also appreciating how these procedures act as filters that select for the acquisition of political power by individuals with specific and predictable characteristics. The article develops a novel constitutional typology based on the structure of political property rights, on the one hand, and the kinds of individuals that govern, on the other, and use this typology to discover the types of polities most likely to be self-governing.

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Alexander William SalterTexas Tech University, USA

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Justin CallaisTexas Tech University, USA

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