May, 2016

An Economic Analysis of Magna Carta

  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Paola Suarez

    Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics, Purchase College, State University of New York
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Find the paper at ScienceDirect. 

This paper uses the economic approach to self-enforcing constitutions to analyze Magna Carta and uses Magna Carta to evaluate the economic approach to self-enforcing constitutions. We find that Magna Carta in its reissued, but not original, incarnation satisfied each of the conditions necessary for constitutional self-enforcement according to that approach and thus effectively constrained government. Our analysis illuminates Magna Carta's initial failure to constrain government, helps explain its ultimate success in doing so, and furnishes supportive evidence for the economic approach to self-enforcing constitutions.