Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



Is there a relationship between the design of democratic institutions and optimal collective decisions? Optimum decisions are defined as achieving goals important to the transition such as deep and equitable property reforms. Democratic institutions refer to first-order institutions of governance and the electoral rules for choosing leaders. Overseeing both are the written or "parchment" constitutions. Constitutions are designed to distribute power among actors, generate efficiency, and govern the interactions among actors. My findings showed that constitutional designs intentionally and sometimes with unanticipated consequences can result in highly cooperative, competitive, or conflictual struggles by political actors over high-stakes distributive issues such as privatization. I argued that chief executives as the institutional setting varied were more or less likely to successfully conduct radical and equitable property reforms. Using distributive theories of institutions, testing of the simpler bivariate model of executive power proved to be indeterminate, except in isolated instances of decision making. Various configurations of executive power assumed importance in a more complex model that incorporates additional variables -- the power distribution governing executive/legislative relations and multicameral institutions. In the Russian case, a powerful executive,in the context of the asymmetric distribution of legislative and non-legislative powers between the branches, promoted property reforms but also conflict between the branches. In Hungary, a powerful executive by virtue of a monopoly over the constitutional powers could act freely and decisively, but only insofar privatization policies were deemed effective. Further, executive power was limited by the powerful Hungarian Constitutional Court. In the Czechoslovak case, the even distribution of powers appeared to most optimize collective decision making. The power and efficiency properties of its moderately consensual institutions intertwined to create institutional incentives that were more likely to produce low-cost and sustainable privatization policies. Rather than serving as a rival account,the unity of purpose argument complimented and extended the power distribution argument. Efficiency effects can arise from the design of electoral rules and subsequent party system formation. The findings supported this interpretation and the role of partisan parliamentary conditions in the formation of winning legislative coalitions in parliament.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

William A. Clark