Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Contain the Wealthy and Patrol the Magistrates: Restoring Elite Accountability to Popular Government

  • JOHN P. McCORMICK (a1)

Modern republics neglect to establish formal institutions that prevent wealthy citizens from exerting excessive political influence and they abandon extra-electoral techniques traditionally employed to keep office-holders accountable. Inspired by Guicciardini's and Machiavelli's reflections on the Roman, Venetian, and Florentine constitutions, this article highlights three forgotten practices that facilitate popular control of both economic and political elites: magistrate appointment procedures combining lottery and election, offices or assemblies excluding the wealthy from eligibility, and political trials enlisting the entire citizenry in prosecutions and appeals. I present a typology of regimes that evaluates the wealth containment potential of various magistrate selection methods, and propose a hypothetical reform supplying the U.S. Constitution with a “Tribunate” reminiscent of elite-accountability institutions in pre-eighteenth-century popular governments.

Corresponding author
John P. McCormick is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago, 5828 South University Ave., Chicago, IL 60637 (
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

BoixCarles. 2003. Democracy and Redistribution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

BruckerGene. 1962. Florentine Politics and Society, 1343–1378. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

DietzMary G. 1986. “Trapping the Prince: Machiavelli and the Politics of Deception.” American Political Science Review80(3): 77799.

DuxburyNeil. 1999. Random Justice: On Lotteries and Legal Decision-Making. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

FitzsimmonsMichael P. 1994. The Remaking of France: The National Assembly and the Constitution of 1791. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

JurdjevicMark. 1999. “Civic Humanism and the Rise of the Medici.” Renaissance Quarterly52(4): 9941020.

KershRogan. 2003. “Influencing the State: U.S. Campaign Finance and its Discontents.” Critical Review15(1–2): 20320.

ManinBernard. 1997. Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

MansbridgeJane. 2003. “Rethinking Representation.” American Political Science Review 97 (4): 51528.

McCormickJohn P. 2001. “Machiavellian Democracy: Controlling Elites With Ferocious Populism,” American Political Science Review95(2): 297314.

McCormickJohn P. 2003. “Machiavelli Against Republicanism: On the Cambridge School's ‘Guicciardinian Moments.’Political Theory31(5): 61543.

McCormickJohn P. n. d. Machiavellian Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

PadgettJohn F., and Chris K.Ansell. 1993. “Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400–1434,” American Journal of Sociology98(6): 12591319.

PattenAlan. 1996. “The Republican Critique of Liberalism.” British Journal of Political Science26(1): 2544.

PettitPhilip. 1999. Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

PrzeworskiAdam, and MichaelWallerstein. 1988. “Structural Dependence of the State on Capital,” American Political Science Review82(1): 1129.

SandersLynn M. 1997. “Against Deliberation.” Political Theory25(3): 34777.

SellersM. N. S. 1994. American Republicanism: Roman Ideology in the United States Constitution. New York, NY: New York University Press.

SunsteinCass R. 1988. “Beyond the Republican Revival,” Yale Law Journal97(8): 153990.

VatterMiguel E.2000. Between Form and Event: Machiavelli's Theory of Political Freedom. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Kluwer Publishers.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 11
Total number of PDF views: 63 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 291 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.