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Perfecting Parliament
Constitutional Reform, Liberalism, and the Rise of Western Democracy

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  • Date Published: November 2010
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521151696

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About the Authors
  • This book explains why contemporary liberal democracies are based on historical templates rather than revolutionary reforms; why the transition in Europe occurred during a relatively short period in the nineteenth century; why politically and economically powerful men and women voluntarily supported such reforms; how interests, ideas, and preexisting institutions affected the reforms adopted; and why the countries that liberalized their political systems also produced the Industrial Revolution. The analysis is organized in three parts. The first part develops new rational choice models of (1) governance, (2) the balance of authority between parliaments and kings, (3) constitutional exchange, and (4) suffrage reform. The second part provides historical overviews and detailed constitutional histories of six important countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan, and Germany. In all the countries discussed, liberal democracy emerged from a long series of constitutional reforms, rather than as a quantum leap from authoritarian to democratic governance. The third part provides additional quantitative evidence in support of the theory, summarizes the results, contrasts the approach taken in this book with that of other scholars, and discusses methodological issues.

    • Provides a unique non-revolutionary theory of the emergence of liberal democracy
    • Develops new rational choice models of governance, the balance of authority between parliaments and kings, and constitutional exchange
    • Includes new detailed constitutional histories of 6 key countries: US, UK, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “If we know how we got here, we know more about how to proceed. This book is a comprehensive effort to help us understand the evolution of the political institutions of Western democracies. The analysis is generalized across several countries with separate but comparable histories. Emphasis is on peaceful processes of institutional development as opposed to romanticized revolutionary change. An exemplary exercise in explanatory social science.” – James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 1986, George Mason University

    “It is rare to find an economist who is a serious student of political history. Roger Congleton’s new book is a powerful contribution to historical institutionalism.” – Iain McLean, FBA, Oxford University

    “Roger Congleton has written a masterful account of the evolution of parliamentary democracy in the West. The book is filled with insightful discussions of the transition to democracy in different countries. It should be of interest for all students of democracy.” – Dennis C. Mueller, University of Vienna, Austria

    “Roger Congleton has spent years perfecting his knowledge of democratic governance – an extraordinary effort of great value for scholars, students, politicians, and citizens.” – Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2009, Indiana University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521151696
    • length: 668 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 154 x 35 mm
    • weight: 0.88kg
    • contains: 16 b/w illus. 14 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. On the origins of Western democracy
    2. Team production, organization, and governance
    3. Organizational governance in the long run
    4. The origins of territorial governance
    5. Constitutional exchange and divided governance
    6. The power of the purse and constitutional reform
    7. Suffrage without democracy
    8. Ideology, interest groups, and adult suffrage
    9. Setting the stage: philosophical, economic and political developments prior to the nineteenth century
    10. Liberalism and reform in the transformative century
    11. Fine-grained constitutional bargaining
    12. An overview of British constitutional history: the English king and the medieval parliament
    13. Constitutional exchange in England: from the Glorious Revolution to universal suffrage
    14. The Swedish transition to democracy
    15. Constitutional reform in the Netherlands: from republic to kingdom, to parliamentary democracy
    16. Germany: constitutional exchange in an emerging state during the nineteenth century
    17. The Japanese transition to democracy and back
    18. The United States, an exception or further illustration?
    19. Quantitative evidence of gradual reform
    20. Ideas, interests, and constitutional reform
    Appendix: methodological approach, limits, and extensions.

  • Author

    Roger D. Congleton, George Mason University, Virginia
    Roger D. Congleton is Professor of Economics and Senior Research Associate, Center for Study of Public Choice, at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, where he has taught since 1988. His research focuses on the political economy of constitutions and public policy. Professor Congleton's most recent books include 40 Years of Research on Rent Seeking (two edited volumes, 2008), which surveys the theoretical and applied literatures on rent seeking; Democratic Constitutional Design and Public Policy (2006), which surveys the empirical literature on the effects of democratic constitutional design on public policies and economic growth; Improving Democracy through Constitutional Reform (2003), which analyzes the effects of constitutional reform on policies and economic developments within Sweden during the past two centuries; and Politics by Principle Not Interest (Cambridge University Press, 1998, written with Nobel prize winner James Buchanan), which analyzes how a generality rule can improve the performance of democratic governments. In addition to his books, Professor Congleton has published more than 100 papers in academic journals and edited volumes on such topics as the politics of constitutional reform, the importance of information in democratic decision making, the emergence and significance of norms, and analyzed policy-making within national governments and international organizations.

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