Harvard University Press, in "Institutions and Economic Performance", Elhanan Helpman (ed.)
Why did limited government and 'constitutionalism' (the rule of law, constitutional rules, and political representation) evolve in some societies but not others? Guided by history, this paper examines why this evolution reflects dependence on administrators to implement policy choices including those affecting them. Limited government and constitutionalism are manifestations of equilibria in which the administrators have the power to influence choices. The thesis that constitutionalism reflects an equilibrium among the powerful differs from the prevailing one, which asserts that it reflects gains to the weak from constraining the powerful. Analyzing the determinants and implications of administrative power reveals its impact on trajectories of economic development. Distinct administrative-power equilibria have different impacts on the security of the non-elite's property rights; intra-state and inter-state violence (e.g. civil wars and wars, respectively); policies; entry barriers to new technologies and economic sectors; the nature of political conflicts; and the means to resolve conflicts concerning political rights.