Private Politics

Private Politics

2001Working Paper No. 1689

This paper introduces the subject of private politics and presents illustrative models using as the context a conflict between an activist and a firm. Private politics addresses situations of conflict and the resolution of that conflict without reliance on the law. It encompasses the political competition over entitlements in the status quo, the direct competition for support from the public, bargaining over the resolution of the conflict, and the maintenance of the agreed-to private order. The term private means that the parties do not rely on public order; i.e., law-making or the courts. The term politics refers to individual and collective action in situations in which individuals attempt to further their interests by imposing their will on others. The paper presents four models of private politics: 1) informational competition between an activist and a firm for support from the public, 2) decision by individual citizen consumers regarding the magnitude and timing of a boycott, 3) bargaining between the activist and the firm to resolve the boycott, and 4) the choice of private ordering to govern the ongoing conflict between the two parties.