March 19, 2010

Rational Choice, Round Robin, and Rebellion

An institutional solution to the problems of revolution
  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Two collective action problems plague successful revolution. On the one hand, would-be revolutionaries confront a “participation problem” whereby no rationally self-interested individual has an incentive to participate in rebellion. On the other hand, individuals face a “firstmover problem” whereby no rationally self-interested individual has an incentive to lead rebellion. This paper argues that 18th-century merchant sailors who confronted these problems devised a novel institution to facilitate maritime revolution and assist them in overthrowing abusive captains. This institution was called a “Round Robin.” Round Robins helped overcome both the participation and first-mover problems by aligning the interests of individual sailors desiring mutiny and restructuring the payoffs of leading versus following maritime rebellion.

 

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Leeson, Peter. "Rational Choice, Round Robin, and Rebellion: An institutional solution to the problems of revolution." Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Vol. 73, no. 3, 2010.