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

  • JOHN P. McCORMICK (a1)
Abstract

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.

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Corresponding author
John P. McCormick is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago, 5828 South University Ave., Chicago, IL 60637 (jpmccorm@uchicago.edu).
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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