David P. Baron

This paper introduces the subject of private politics, presents a research agenda, and provides an example involving activists and a firm. Private politics addresses situations of conflict and their resolution without reliance on the law or government. 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 ordering. The term private means that the parties do not rely on public order, i.e., lawmaking or the courts. The term politics refers to individual and collective action in situations in which people attempt to further their interests by imposing their will on others. Four models of private politics are discussed: (1) informational competition between an activist and a firm for support from the public, (2) decisions by citizen consumers regarding a boycott, (3) bargaining to resolve the boycott, and (4) the choice of an equilibrium private ordering to govern the ongoing conflicting interests of the activist and the firm.