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Rights to the Realm: Reconsidering Western Political Development


I explore how political property rights to revenues from governance relate to generality norms in governance. I do so by examining the rise of Western constitutional liberalism from the perspective of property rights economics and political economy. While it is true that Western political development has been the result of bargains between political elites (Congleton 2011), the implications of the fact that parties to these bargains historically were “owners of the realm” have been underappreciated. I argue the unintended consequence of these political bargains among “owners of the realm” was a de facto supermajority rule, approaching conceptual unanimity for those party to the bargains. In developing this argument I elaborate on the relationship between political and economic property rights, noting that while they were and will continue to be intertwined, there was a hierarchy of rights that became inverted over the course of elites’ constitutional bargains.

Corresponding author
Alexander William Salter is Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University, 703 Flint Ave., Lubbock, TX 79424 (
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American Political Science Review
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