The Nature of the State and the State of Nature: A Comment on Grady & McGuire's The Nature of Constitutions


In "The Nature of Constitutions," Mark Grady & Michael McGuire provide a model of the evolution and purposes of constitutions as arising to minimize appropriation by dominants of subordinates. This Comment builds on Grady & McGuire's article in three ways. First, it supplements their analysis by operationalizing a model of constitutional evolution that views constitutions as arising out of the conflict of competing high-ranking individuals to preserve their own authority. From this clash of self-interest of dominant individuals, institutions are born. This predicts that constitutions will not simply tame all forms of appropriation, but will also hard-wire some forms of appropriation behavior into the permanent constitutional structure. Second, it examines the American constitution in light of this model to show how that constitution reflects the mixture of appropriation and appropriation-taming behavior. Third, this Comment argues that the breakdown of constitutionalism in the United States this century can be explained by a failure to fully appreciate the purposes of constitutionalism in a biological framework.