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← 23. Democracy and Majority Rule (II)

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  1. Prof: So today we're
    going to talk about majority
  2. rule and democratic competition.
  3. Whenever we think about
    democracy there is this
  4. automatic almost reflexive
    impulse to associate democracy
  5. with majority rule.
  6. We saw last time that was one
    of the things that frightened
  7. Madison and his contemporaries
    that they wanted to limit the
  8. power of majority factions as he
    called them.
  9. Limit the power of majority
  10. But we think today,
  11. that majority rule confers
    legitimacy of some sort on
  12. collective decisions.
  13. And what our agenda today is to
    dig into why it is that anybody
  14. might think majority rule has
    some important normative
  15. property.
  16. Anyone have any suggestion as
    to why it might?
  17. Why should we care?
  18. The endless recounts in Florida
    in 2000 to see who really had
  19. the majority,
    what's the big deal about
  20. majority rule?
  21. Why should we care?
  22. Any takers?
  23. Yeah?
  24. Student: I guess it's
    like a somewhat utilitarian
  25. flavor to that.
  26. Prof: A somewhat what?
  27. Student: A utilitarian
  28. Prof: A utilitarian
    flavor, so that's interesting.
  29. There might be a utilitarian
    justification for majority rule.
  30. Just say a little more about
    what you have in mind.
  31. Student: Because if the
    majority of the society consents
  32. to a certain policy or approves
    of a certain person it's kind of
  33. like they're making the judgment
    that having this person or
  34. having this policy would
    increase their happiness or
  35. their satisfaction with society
    the most.
  36. Prof: So maximizing
    government by majority rule
  37. might in some sense maximize
    utility in the society.
  38. That's certainly an interesting
    hypothesis, and I'll revisit it
  39. in this lecture.
  40. Any other suggestions about
    majority rule,
  41. no?
  42. Going once, twice, gone.
  43. All right, we'll revisit this
    utilitarian thinking because I
  44. think it's a very good
    observation to make because
  45. although it's not explicit in
    much of the discussion of
  46. majority rule I think it is
    implicit and we'll come back to
  47. that.
  48. The traditional justification
    for majority rule was that it
  49. somehow identified the will of
    the people.
  50. That democracy reflects,
    embodies, expresses the will of
  51. the people, but of course that
    just puts it one-step further
  52. back.
  53. What is the will of the people?
  54. How do you know the will of the
    people when you trip over it?
  55. One of the canonical
    formulations of this idea is in
  56. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's
    Social Contract where he
  57. says,
    "There is a great
  58. difference between the will of
  59. what all individuals want,
    and the general will;
  60. the general will studies only
    the common interest while the
  61. will of all studies private
  62. and is indeed no more than the
    sum of individual desires.
  63. But if we take away from these
    same wills,
  64. the pluses and minuses which
    cancel each other out,
  65. the balance which remains is
    the general will."
  66. We take away from the
    individual wills the pluses and
  67. minuses which cancel each other
    out, the balance which remains
  68. is the general will.
  69. So people have spent hundreds
    of years trying to figure out
  70. whether that makes any sense,
    whether this notion that you
  71. find in Rousseau of pluses and
    minuses canceling one another
  72. out makes any sense.
  73. And what sense could it make?
  74. How would we know?
  75. As I said, how would we know
    the general will if we fell over
  76. it?
  77. And it's often been the case
    that people have tended to
  78. associate the general will with
    the idea of the will of the
  79. majority.
  80. But going all the way back to
    the eighteenth century there has
  81. been the contrarian impulse
    first noticed by a philosopher
  82. called Condorcet at the end of
    the eighteenth century,
  83. but that has since preoccupied
    many theorists of democracy,
  84. and that is that,
    well, actually majority rule
  85. doesn't even necessarily reflect
    the will of the majority.
  86. What Condorcet noticed was a
    very simple fact which is
  87. suppose you have a society where
    there are three voters and each
  88. voter has a preference over
    three different policies.
  89. So in this example voter number
    one prefers A to B and B to C.
  90. Voter number two prefers C to A
    and A to B, and number three
  91. prefers B to C and C to A.
  92. What Condorcet noticed was you
    get a paradoxical result because
  93. you have a majority for A over
  94. You have a majority for B over
    C, but then you have a majority
  95. for C over A,
    and that seems like a
  96. contradiction because if you
    dial back through your notes to
  97. when we were discussing basic
    properties of rationality,
  98. remember when we were talking
    about indifference curves and
  99. all of that,
    this seems to violate the
  100. principle of transitivity
    because you have a majority for
  101. A over B,
    you have a majority for B over
  102. C, and then you have a majority
    for C over A.
  103. So it seems like our individual
    preferences can be rational our
  104. collective preferences might be
    irrational in the sense that
  105. they contradict themselves.
  106. And so several things follow
    from this, or are thought to
  107. follow from this at least.
  108. One is that,
    this Condorcet noticed in the
  109. eighteenth century,
    but a famous,
  110. indeed, Nobel Prize winning
    economist called Kenneth Arrow
  111. proved a theorem in 1951 in a
    little book called Social
  112. Choice and Individual Values
    that this is a perfectly general
  113. result.
  114. And so if you have modest
    pluralism of preferences which
  115. we were assuming--
    remember when we talked about
  116. crosscutting cleavages on Monday
    we were assuming it's important
  117. for democracy,
    diversity of tastes and
  118. preferences,
    then you can always get this
  119. result with majority rule.
  120. So that has a number of
    unsettling implications because
  121. there's no general will
    identified by the majority.
  122. On the contrary,
    if things are put in one order
  123. you'll get one result,
    but if things are put in a
  124. different order you'll get a
    different result.
  125. So the way parliamentary
    committees often work you have a
  126. motion and then you have
    amendments to the motion.
  127. You always vote on the
    amendments first and then the
  128. final motion last.
  129. So another important theorem
    proved by somebody called Gerald
  130. Kramer about twenty years after
    Arrow basically says,
  131. "If you let me determine
    the order of voting,
  132. i.e.
  133. what the amendments are and
    what order we'll vote on them,
  134. I can get any outcome.
  135. All I have to do is know your
    preferences and control the
  136. order of voting,
    and I can get a majority to
  137. appear to support any
  138. So this suggests that majority
    rule can be manipulated.
  139. Now you might say, "Well,
    when millions of people are
  140. voting nobody's really
    controlling the agenda in that
  141. specific a sense,
    and nobody has all of that
  142. information about everybody's
  143. so people can't manipulate the
  144. That might be true as well,
    but it also suggests that there
  145. shouldn't be much moral
    authority attaching to the
  146. outcome if we know--
    yeah, nobody manipulated that C
  147. wins,
    but if things had been done in
  148. a different order B might have
  149. or A might have won in this
  150. so why should we attach any
    particular moral authority to
  151. the idea that C won?
  152. We shouldn't.
  153. It's just an arbitrary result.
  154. So footnote to this,
    one important takeaway from
  155. Arrow's theorem is you should
    always be the last person to
  156. interview for a job,
    because if there are cyclical
  157. preferences among the interviews
    over the candidates you want the
  158. others to bump each other off
    and then you come along at the
  159. end.
  160. So don't say you didn't learn
    anything useful today.
  161. You certainly learned that.
  162. They call you for an interview
    say, "Well,
  163. could I come in three weeks?
  164. Why don't you interview your
    other candidates first?"
  165. So majority rule.
  166. If there is such a thing as the
    general will,
  167. majority rule doesn't seem to
    identify it.
  168. And the public choice
    literature that came out of
  169. economics in the 1950s and 1960s
    basically converged on that
  170. proposition.
  171. It said, "There is no such
    thing as a social welfare
  172. function,"
    which is just econ-speak for
  173. saying there is no such thing as
    a general will,
  174. or if there is a general will
    we don't know what decision rule
  175. would identify it.
  176. And a huge amount of ink has
    been spilt in trying to figure
  177. out what decision rule might
    identify unambiguously something
  178. that we would feel morally
    comfortable calling the general
  179. will.
  180. And I don't think anybody has
    succeeded definitively at that
  181. task.
  182. Locke, we always come back to
    Locke in this course.
  183. Locke has a somewhat different
    defense of majority rule.
  184. Now you might think that's
    weird because most people think
  185. of Locke as somebody who
    defended rights.
  186. If you go and read about the
    debates on The Constitution the
  187. Lockeans versus the Republicans,
    those of you who have taken the
  188. history course,
    the Lockeans were the people
  189. who wanted to create the Bill of
  190. defend against the majority and
    so on,
  191. but in fact if you go and read
    Locke what you find is that he's
  192. a staunch defender of majority
  193. He says, "For when any
    number of Men have,
  194. by the consent of every
  195. made a Community,
    they have thereby made that
  196. Community one Body,
    with a Power to Act as one
  197. Body, which is only by the will
    and determination of the
  198. majority."
  199. It doesn't say why.
  200. "For that which acts any
  201. being only the consent of the
    individuals of it,
  202. and it being necessary to that
    which is one body to move one
  203. way;
    it is necessary the Body should
  204. move that way whither the
    greater force carries it,
  205. which is the consent of the
    majority: or else it is
  206. impossible it should act or
    continue one Body,
  207. one Community[.]"
    So he's saying it's necessary
  208. the body should move that way
    whither the greater force
  209. carries it,
    which is the consent of the
  210. majority,
    or else it's impossible it
  211. should continue to act one body
    or one community,
  212. which the consent of every
    individual that's united into it
  213. agreed that it should,
    and so everyone is bound by
  214. that consent to be concluded by
    the majority.
  215. "And therefore we see that
    in Assemblies impowered to act
  216. by positive Laws where no number
    is set by that positive Law
  217. which impowers them,
    the act of the Majority passes
  218. for the act of the whole,
    and of course determines,
  219. as having by the Law of Nature
    and Reason,
  220. the power of the whole."
  221. So that's Locke's defense of
    majority rule.
  222. It's not that it identifies
    some general will.
  223. It's really an argument about
    power, right?
  224. He's basically saying,
    "Look, once you have a
  225. community somebody's going to
  226. It's a little bit like Nozick
  227. "Once you have those
    independents out there
  228. somebody's going to force them
    to join,"
  229. just a realpolitik argument
    that the power of the majority's
  230. going to determine what the
    community does.
  231. And indeed, if we delve more
    deeply into other things that
  232. Locke says he basically says,
    "Look, if you don't like
  233. what the government does,
    you can oppose,
  234. but if nobody agrees with you,
    you should (as we discussed
  235. earlier in the course),
    you should expect your reward
  236. in the next life.
  237. If everybody agrees,
    or if a majority agrees with
  238. you then you can have 1688.
  239. You can change the
  240. So this seems to be an argument
    about the legitimacy of the
  241. majority that is a very
    hardnosed realistic judgment
  242. about politics,
    not a moral claim that the
  243. majority has any particular
    intrinsic property that gives it
  244. the right to govern.
  245. It's just saying,
    "Well, there it is.
  246. The majority is going to flex
    its muscles and if it's not
  247. attended to it's going to
  248. Now I think that we will see
    Locke gets,
  249. actually, a lot closer to the
    truth of the desirability of
  250. majority rule than Rousseau did
    or the people who were trying to
  251. come up with the notion of the
    general will,
  252. or what modern economists would
    call a social welfare function.
  253. And a way you could think about
    this argument,
  254. particularly in light of the
    observation about the
  255. relationship between majority
    rule and utilitarianism,
  256. is that I think the best way to
    think of what Locke is doing
  257. here it's a kind of negative
  258. or at least a cousin of
    negative utilitarianism.
  259. We generally think of negative
    utilitarianism as the doctrine
  260. that we should minimize pain as
    opposed to positive
  261. utilitarianism which is,
    maximize pleasure.
  262. We didn't make that distinction
    when we talked about Bentham,
  263. but it's there in the
    contemporary literature.
  264. So this is a cousin,
    I think, of negative
  265. utilitarianism in the sense that
    I think that Locke thinks of
  266. majority rule and indeed of
    resistance to power as a way of
  267. limiting the possibility of
  268. Limiting the possibility of
  269. And he's saying you can resist
    power if power's dominating you,
  270. but you're only going to win if
    you're in the majority,
  271. if you have the greater force.
  272. But why is majority rule the
    instrument for limiting the
  273. possibility of domination?
  274. Why should we think of majority
    rule as having that propensity?
  275. Anyone got a suggestion?
  276. Why should we think that
    majority rule,
  277. all things considered,
    would limit the possibility of
  278. domination?
  279. This is a hard question.
  280. Yeah?
  281. Student: Well,
    it seems it would go back to
  282. the crosscutting cleavages that
    we talked about the other day,
  283. that if you're going to be in
    the majority you don't know if
  284. you're going to be in the
    minority on other things so you
  285. would limit the domination that
    you put out.
  286. You wouldn't want to be a
    domineering presence for fear
  287. that there'd be other
    domineering presences in other
  288. spheres.
  289. Prof: I think that's
    exactly right.
  290. I think you've hit the nail on
    the head.
  291. He said, "Well,
    it's related to the
  292. crosscutting cleavages and one's
    not knowing whether or not the
  293. policies that get enacted are
    going to be the polices that you
  294. want,
    or whether you're going to
  295. regard them as being imposed on
    you and dominating you."
  296. I'll come back to your point in
    a minute,
  297. but as background to it and to
  298. I think, exactly why you're
    right and what turns on what you
  299. said,
    think about another
  300. prize-winning economist who has
    theorized about politics.
  301. This is a book published in
    1962 by the economist James
  302. Buchanan and the political
    scientist Gordon Tullock for
  303. which Buchanan got the Nobel
    Prize in 1986 and Tullock was
  304. not happy.
  305. The argument was,
    "Well, we don't have any
  306. Nobel Prize for political
  307. so that's why they gave it to
  308. Although you may know that last
  309. in a slap at their own
    discipline, in fact for the
  310. first time the Nobel Prize
    Committee did give the Nobel
  311. Prize to a political scientist,
    a woman by the name of Elinor
  312. Ostrom at the University of
  313. but that was then and this is
  314. In 1986 Buchanan got the
    recognition and Tullock was not
  315. happy as he widely let it be
  316. So here's the intuition.
  317. It is behind a veil of
  318. This book interestingly a long
    time before Rawls wrote,
  319. 1962, but the basic idea is
    behind the veil of ignorance,
  320. how would you think about the
    decision rules that should
  321. govern you?
  322. How can you reason about that?
  323. And they said,
    "Well, what you have to
  324. think about is two things.
  325. One is, how likely is it that
    the society is going to do
  326. something you don't like,
    and what can you do about
  327. that?"
  328. And related to that,
    you have to think how much do
  329. you care, because some decisions
    are much more important to you
  330. than other decisions.
  331. Why does it matter how much you
    care, because being involved in
  332. decision-making takes up time,
    effort, energy that you could
  333. spend doing other things.
  334. So if it's some utterly trivial
    decision you're not going to
  335. want to spend a lot of time on
  336. but if it's a really important
    decision then you'll be willing
  337. to spend time on it in order to
    make sure your rights are
  338. protected.
  339. So they make a distinction
  340. first of all,
    what they call external costs,
  341. and the idea here is that as
    the number of people in the
  342. society goes up,
    the chances that you're going
  343. to have some decision imposed on
    you that you don't like also
  344. goes up because there are all
    kinds of decisions that people
  345. could make.
  346. On the other hand there are
    decision making costs too,
  347. and as the number of people in
    the society goes up the decision
  348. making costs increase as well
    because there are more people to
  349. talk to,
    to negotiate with and so on.
  350. And so what you have to think
    about is the sum of those two
  351. things.
  352. How important is it to you?
  353. How important is it to you to
    participate in decision-making
  354. is going to be,
    how much do you care about the
  355. result,
    and how much time are you going
  356. to have to spend on the result.
  357. And what they said in a kind of
    utilitarian calculus they said,
  358. "What you're going to want
    to do is add them up,"
  359. so you're going to want to
    minimize the sum of the external
  360. costs and the decision-making
  361. You're going to want to
    minimize that.
  362. So when a decision is
    completely unimportant to you
  363. then you won't want to spend a
    lot of time,
  364. but when a decision is really
    important to you,
  365. you will be willing to spend
  366. And so then they said,
    "Well, so how should we
  367. think about the organization of
  368. For questions that people think
    are really important we should
  369. have something like unanimity
    rule because,
  370. after all, unanimity rule is a
    veto of one.
  371. If you have unanimity rule it's
    like the Pareto principle.
  372. Anybody can veto.
  373. Everybody's agreement has to be
    gotten in the limiting case.
  374. If you had absolute unanimity
    rule you can't do anything
  375. without that.
  376. Whereas for less important
  377. this point here when you're
    minimizing the sum of external
  378. costs and decision-making costs,
    what would be something less
  379. than unanimity rule?
  380. It might be a two-thirds rule,
    and even less important things
  381. you might say majority rule,
    and even less important things
  382. than you might say,
    "Let the bureaucrats
  383. decide.
  384. It's just not worth my
  385. So for Buchanan and Tullock,
    there's no presumption that
  386. there's any particular
    importance attaching to majority
  387. rule.
  388. On the contrary,
    we should say for the most
  389. important things we should start
    with unanimity rule and then we
  390. can come down the ladder or we
    can think about steadily
  391. declining supermajorities as
    things become less important to
  392. us.
  393. And so the argument was that
    for constitutional questions it
  394. should be something very close
    to unanimity rule,
  395. and we should have entrenched
    or semi-entrenched clauses that
  396. are virtually impossible to
  397. They're telling a story that
    more or less reflects the
  398. structure of the American
  399. where amending the Constitution
    does take very hard to get super
  400. majorities,
    but regular legislation takes a
  401. lot less.
  402. And it's simply this
    calculation, this
  403. self-interested calculation that
    leads you to often be willing to
  404. go with majority rule and
    there's nothing more to be said
  405. about it than that.
  406. So now we come to your
    observation, and your
  407. observation is basically the
    observation that Buchanan and
  408. Tullock are wrong;
    that Buchanan and Tullock are
  409. wrong because they confuse
    unanimity as a state of affairs
  410. in the world where we all agree
    about something with unanimity
  411. as a decision rule.
  412. And your observation was first
    made by Brian Barry,
  413. who sadly died last year,
    in a very good book called
  414. Political Argument and
    was developed by Douglas Rae,
  415. who teaches here in SOM,
    in two important articles in
  416. the American Political
    Science Review.
  417. And what Barry and Rae pointed
    out was exactly what this
  418. gentleman here pointed out a few
    minutes ago,
  419. which is the whole Buchanan and
    Tullock story assumes we have
  420. agreement at the baseline.
  421. The whole Buchanan and Tullock
    story assumes that everybody's
  422. happy with the initial state of
  423. And so then we say,
    "Well so."
  424. We started at that baseline and
    then we say,
  425. "The things that are most
    important to you from that
  426. baseline we'll create unanimity
    rule and give you,
  427. everyone in the room,
    essentially a veto,
  428. but then we'll work down from
  429. But what Rae and Barry said
    was, "Well,
  430. what if we say that behind this
    veil of ignorance we don't know
  431. whether we're going to like the
    status quo or not.
  432. Maybe we will,
    maybe we won't,
  433. but if you don't want to give
    any special status to the status
  434. quo,
    then you shouldn't bias
  435. decisions to the status quo,
    because maybe it'll turn out
  436. that you don't want the status
    quo and then you're stuck with
  437. something that's impossible to
  438. And so what Barry and Rae
    showed was,
  439. well, actually if you assume
    behind a veil of ignorance that
  440. you're as likely to be against
    the status quo as in favor of
  441. the status quo then you would
    choose majority rule or
  442. something very close to it.
  443. So if the number of people in
    the society is even you would
  444. choose N over two plus one or N
    over two minus one.
  445. If you were wanting to minimize
    the probably that a decision's
  446. going to be imposed upon you,
    not knowing whether or not it
  447. was the decision favored by the
    status quo.
  448. So there's a kind of veil of
    ignorance logic in the Rae and
  449. Barry critique of Buchanan and
    Tullock which says that the
  450. presumption should be in favor
    of majority rule or something
  451. very close to it unless we want
    to bias the whole system toward
  452. the status quo,
    and we don't actually have any
  453. ultimate good reason for doing
  454. because even if somebody at
    some constitutional convention
  455. preferred to entrench whatever
    it is,
  456. the right the bear arms two
    hundred years later we might not
  457. take the view that we want to
    entrench that,
  458. but now it becomes impossibly
    hard to change.
  459. So if you say behind the veil
    of ignorance we're going to be
  460. as likely to oppose as to
    support there does seem to be a
  461. kind of negative utilitarian
    logic which says if I want to
  462. minimize the likelihood of
    having decisions I don't like
  463. imposed upon me,
    I would prefer majority rule to
  464. the going alternatives.
  465. Well, that's all very well,
    and I think that the Barry and
  466. Rae argument is pretty robust.
  467. It's certainly stood up for
    what now;
  468. close to half a century.
  469. It's regarded as conventional
    wisdom on this point.
  470. Still in all it doesn't tell us
    a lot about the dynamics of
  471. actual politics.
  472. How does competitive democracy
    play out when we're thinking
  473. about how actual political
    systems, actual democratic
  474. systems operate?
  475. And you'll recall that from
    Monday's lecture I said to you
  476. that Robert Dahl was the most
    important democratic theorist of
  477. the second half of the twentieth
  478. but I didn't talk about the
    first half of the twentieth
  479. century.
  480. And I think the most important
    democratic theorist of the first
  481. half of the twentieth century,
    who in many ways Dahl built
  482. upon, was actually an economist
    by the name of Joseph
  483. Schumpeter.
  484. Economists had a lot of
    influence in democratic theory
  485. in the twentieth century.
  486. Schumpeter wrote a book called
  487. Socialism and Democracy
    which he published in 1942,
  488. eight years before his death.
  489. And most of that book is
    actually completely
  490. unremarkable.
  491. Most of that book is a long and
    rather tortured critique of Carl
  492. Marx,
    but the piece of it we're
  493. focusing on are those two little
    chapters called The Classical
  494. Theory of Democracy and
    Another Theory of
  495. Democracy.
  496. And I should say that those two
    little chapters may be the most
  497. influential writings about
    democracy in the real world that
  498. have come out of the twentieth
  499. Now it should also be said just
    as a prefatory matter that the
  500. title of the first chapter of
    those two chapters is
  501. misleading,
    because what he calls the
  502. classical theory of democracy is
    actually a neoclassical theory.
  503. It is Rousseau's idea of the
    general will,
  504. which we now know to be
  505. but you know from Monday's
    lecture that Rousseau's idea of
  506. the general will was actually a
    neoclassical adaptation,
  507. because the ancient Greek idea
    was ruling and being ruled in
  508. turn.
  509. So Schumpeter's critique of
    what he calls the classical
  510. theory of democracy we should
    remember as actually a
  511. neoclassical eighteenth-century
  512. But he starts from the
    proposition that the critique of
  513. the idea of the general will is
  514. There is no such thing.
  515. There is no social welfare
    function, as an economist would
  516. put it.
  517. But he, Schumpeter,
    says, "Let's think about
  518. democracy in a fundamentally
    different way.
  519. Let's define it as follows.
  520. 'The democratic method is that
    institutional arrangement for
  521. arriving at political decisions
    in which individuals acquire the
  522. power to decide by means of a
    competitive struggle for the
  523. people's vote.'"
  524. And now he's going to develop
    this idea in that second little
  525. chapter with an analogy to the
  526. He's going to think about
    democracy as shopping.
  527. Schumpeter says,
    "Look, think about
  528. democracy, think about the
    polity as an analog of the
  529. economy."
  530. What do we have in the economy,
    and what do we have in the
  531. polity?
  532. Well, one thing we have in the
    economy is consumers,
  533. and what is the political
    analog of consumers?
  534. Any guesses?
  535. What's the political analog of
  536. Student: Voters.
  537. Professor Ian Shapiro:
    Yeah, voters.
  538. Another thing we have in the
    economy is firms.
  539. What's the political analog of
  540. Anybody?
  541. You have the mic, guess.
  542. Student: Various candidates for
  543. Professor Ian Shapiro:
    Yeah, parties.
  544. That's good enough.
  545. Firms make profits.
  546. What is the political analog of
  547. Student: Whoever wins the
  548. Professor Ian Shapiro:
  549. What do they get?
  550. How do they win?
  551. Student: They get votes.
  552. Professor Ian Shapiro: Exactly.
  553. So firms want profits,
    parties want votes.
  554. Then firms produce products.
  555. What is produced in the polity?
  556. Student: Various party
  557. Professor Ian Shapiro:
    Platforms, yeah and
  558. legislation.
  559. And so when we think of the
    doctrine of consumer sovereignty
  560. in economics what would the
    political analog of it be?
  561. This won't leap out at you
    immediately, but okay.
  562. It's the idea of democratic
  563. it's the equivalent.
  564. When we say this consumer
    sovereignty in markets there's
  565. democratic legitimacy in the
  566. And so we have this basic
    parallel between the economic
  567. system where firms are
  568. firms are competing for
    profits, and they engage in a
  569. competitive struggle for the
    consumer's dollar,
  570. to paraphrase Schumpeter,
    and parties are competing for
  571. votes and they engage in a
    competitive struggle for the
  572. people's vote.
  573. And democracy is not about
  574. or deliberation,
    or all of the things that
  575. people try to identify with,
    it's essentially,
  576. as I said, it's about shopping.
  577. You shop for politicians and
    policies in just the same way as
  578. you shop for iPads and Maseratis
    or whatever it is you buy.
  579. This is how we should think
    about democracy.
  580. Hugely influential,
    hugely influential.
  581. And what disciplines the
    elites, what disciplines the
  582. elites that creates the
    democratic legitimacy,
  583. or maybe I should have put
    democratic accountability there,
  584. is the fact that the voter can
    kick the bums out.
  585. Gordon Brown's worrying about
    this for the next few weeks.
  586. The British voters can heave
    him out.
  587. That is what disciplines the
    political elites.
  588. That is what prevents them
    ultimately from exercising
  589. domination.
  590. And so we think about a
    competitive system driven by
  591. politicians who are competing
    for votes.
  592. Turns out there's a big
    tradition in American political
  593. science of studying this that
    goes back to,
  594. again, another economist,
    kind of depressing all these
  595. economists but there it is.
  596. In 1929 Hotelling,
    who wrote a paper trying to
  597. explain why is it that if you
    look at a town,
  598. any town, you'll find Target
    and you'll find--
  599. what's another?
  600. You'll find Shaw's and Stop
    & Shop right next to each
  601. other on Main Street.
  602. And Downs developed this into a
    political argument.
  603. Basically he said imagine
    you've got a continuum here from
  604. left to right,
    so the people with
  605. ideological--this is ideology.
  606. People on the left are here.
  607. People on the right are here.
  608. Well, we should think the
    population is more or less
  609. normally distributed,
    so most people are in the
  610. middle and some people are at
    the two extremes.
  611. Well, if you have two political
    parties where are they going to
  612. head for?
  613. They're going to head for the
    median voter because that's
  614. where most of the votes are.
  615. So you might have differences
    of opinion within the parties,
  616. I'll come back to that in a
    minute, but basically--oops,
  617. where are we?
  618. We're getting too far ahead of
    ourselves here.
  619. Parties are going to head for
    the median voter because that's
  620. where the votes are.
  621. When they asked whoever it was,
    "Why did you rob
  622. banks?"
  623. Because that's where the money
  624. Politicians are going to go for
    the median voter.
  625. That's where the votes are.
  626. Now, of course,
    they could be wrong.
  627. They're going to guess.
  628. So for example,
    1964 Goldwater running for
  629. president thinks that the median
    voter is way over here,
  630. but he's wrong so he loses.
  631. Then 1980 Ronald Regan
    basically runs on exactly the
  632. same platform that Goldwater had
    lost on in 1964 and everybody
  633. says,
    "This crazy right-wing
  634. nut's going to be creamed.
  635. We saw that in 1964,"
    but either because he knew
  636. something,
    or because he was lucky or some
  637. combination,
    it turned out that between 1964
  638. and 1980 the median voter had
    moved and Jimmy Carter was wrong
  639. about where the median voter
  640. So generally speaking,
    other things equal,
  641. the parties would converge to
    the median voter,
  642. or at least where they believed
    the median voter is and the
  643. people who get it right will
  644. Now that seems to have the
    implication that particularly as
  645. polling gets better and better,
    so you don't make the kind of
  646. mistakes the Democrats made in
    1980 or the Republicans made in
  647. 1964,
    the parties are going to start
  648. offering exactly the same
  649. And indeed, if you look at
    the--I don't know how much
  650. attention you folks are paying
    to the British election,
  651. but basically they're offering
    the same policies.
  652. They're both saying the others
    are going to lie to you about
  653. what they're going to do,
    but we're going to keep the
  654. National Health Service.
  655. We're not going to cut this.
  656. We're not going to cut that.
  657. We're not going to do this to
  658. Because they've done all the
    polling they know what the
  659. median voter wants,
    and so they're basically
  660. offering the same policies.
  661. I'll come back to what that
    means for political competition
  662. in a minute.
  663. But if they're competing,
    if they're basically offering
  664. the same policies,
    what are they competing over?
  665. What are they putting in front
    of electorate?
  666. If they're basically both doing
    the same thing,
  667. they're going to compete over
    things like character
  668. assassination.
  669. They're going to say,
    "He's a liar.
  670. Vote for me because he's a liar.
  671. He says he won't cut the health
    service but he will."
  672. The other one will say,
    "He says we won't raise
  673. taxes, but he will.
  674. He's dishonorable.
  675. He was involved in this,
    that, and the other
  676. scandal."
  677. That's what they're going to do.
  678. They're going to compete over
  679. right?
  680. Now one way you could imagine
    something that would change that
  681. is if there were other variables
    that kept these parties apart.
  682. So, for example,
    we have primaries now in the
  683. U.S.,
    and of course the primary
  684. voters on the Democratic Party
    are over here probably normally
  685. distributed,
    and the primary voters in the
  686. Republican Party are here.
  687. If you have to win the primary
    first then you're going to get
  688. pulled down here,
    and the Republicans are going
  689. to get pulled over there,
    and so what happens is if you
  690. have some other force that pulls
    the parties apart,
  691. then you might get competition
    over policy.
  692. Some people say, "Oh,
    it's bad to have primaries
  693. because if you have primaries
    the activists get control of the
  694. parties and extremists in both
  695. you know, the unions control
    what the Democratic Party does
  696. and the far right controls what
    the Republican Party does."
  697. It's true, but the flipside of
    that is that when the general
  698. election comes,
    you actually have competition
  699. over policies because the
    parties have been pulled apart
  700. by the fact that they had to win
    these primaries first.
  701. Now there are other bad sides
    of primaries,
  702. but part of the point here is
    you need to see that what it is
  703. that parties compete over can
  704. So when we put in the general
    election the parties have been
  705. pulled somewhat apart.
  706. So if you have something in the
    structure of political parties,
  707. it could be primaries,
    it could be a strong control of
  708. the party selection process by
    the leadership or something like
  709. that,
    then you will get competition
  710. over policy.
  711. Now some people would say
    that's better because people get
  712. a clear choice as opposed to
    just character assassination and
  713. that sort of thing.
  714. It's actually better for them
    to compete over policies.
  715. Notice, though,
    if you do have strong parties
  716. that are kept ideologically
  717. and you have competition over
  718. you can get results like in
  719. the British Railways have been
    nationalized and denationalized
  720. three times in the twentieth
  721. because Labor comes in and
    nationalizes them and then the
  722. Tories come in and
    denationalizes them.
  723. So you get policy alternation
    and that could be good or bad,
  724. but it's a different thing to
    compete over.
  725. So you can have competition
    over personalities,
  726. you can have competition over
  727. and of course you can have,
    as we do in our system,
  728. you can have competition over
  729. If you have a system in which
    you have individual
  730. constituencies like we do in the
  731. you have congressional
    constituencies and then you have
  732. states,
    each representative is really
  733. looking for,
    not the national median voter,
  734. but the median voter in their
    district or in their state.
  735. That's who they're serving.
  736. And so there's a lot of
    literature about whether it's
  737. better to have proportional
    representation where you have
  738. basically one national
  739. or whether you should have a
    system in which politicians
  740. compete with one another as to
    who's going to bring more pork
  741. back to our district.
  742. So I mention these things only
    so that you're aware that once
  743. we talk about political
    competition we haven't settled
  744. what it is that parties compete
  745. But Schumpeter didn't address
    these because Schumpeter
  746. ultimately didn't care.
  747. He didn't care,
    really, whether they were
  748. competing over personalities,
    policies or pork.
  749. The point was that they were
    competing, and they wanted to
  750. throw one another out.
  751. This is the system,
    to hearken back to Monday's
  752. lecture,
    in which ambition really
  753. counteracts ambition,
    whereas separation of powers
  754. and all that,
    for the reasons Dahl gave,
  755. doesn't really work.
  756. There's no mechanism,
    but this creates a mechanism
  757. for ambition to counteract
  758. So Schumpeter and Dahl are much
    more sympathetic to the idea of
  759. pluralism and crosscutting
  760. and a competitive struggle for
    the people's vote than they are
  761. to institutional checks and
    balances to discipline elites.
  762. Of course there are problems
    with Schumpeter.
  763. I'll just mention them briefly
    because we're running short of
  764. time, and you can pursue them in
  765. But one is, you're going to
    have two parties,
  766. or maybe three parties,
    or four parties;
  767. it's oligopolistic competition.
  768. It's not a very thoroughgoing
    form of competition,
  769. so that's one thing to think
  770. Secondly, this whole thing
    doesn't address the role of
  771. money in politics.
  772. We'll see this in sharp relief
    in the state of Connecticut in
  773. the next eight months where the
    likely Republican nominee for
  774. Chris Dodd's Senate seat has
    already announced she's going to
  775. spend fifty million dollars of
    her own money on her campaign.
  776. And so Attorney General Richard
    Blumenthal who's the likely
  777. Democrat has to raise a lot of
  778. So it's not necessarily
    competitive struggle for the
  779. people's vote,
    but rather struggle for money
  780. and that has implications which
    you should think about.
  781. Notice third that this
    Schumpeterian story completely
  782. devalues participation.
  783. After all, it buys into the
    Buchanan and Tullock definition
  784. of the problem where we saw
    participation was defined as a
  785. cost.
  786. If you have to spend time
    participating in politics it's
  787. time you could be spending
    driving your Maserati and you'd
  788. rather be doing that.
  789. That's the assumption.
  790. How good an assumption is that?
  791. Maybe participation is
    inherently valuable then you
  792. have to think about that.
  793. And then finally it really is a
    minimal conception of democracy.
  794. Now some people have
    operationalized Schumpeter to
  795. say,
    and this is true in the
  796. comparative politics literature
    about new democracies,
  797. that we can't call a system a
    democracy until the government
  798. has twice lost an election and
    given up power.
  799. This is sometimes called the
    Schumpeter two turnover test.
  800. Famous Harvard political
    scientist who recently died
  801. called Samuel Huntington came up
    with the two turnover test.
  802. We can't call something a
    democracy unless there's been
  803. this turnover at least twice.
  804. In one way that's a stiff test.
  805. Japan didn't meet it until very
  806. The U.S.
  807. didn't meet it until 1840.
  808. India didn't meet it until
  809. South Africa which people crow
    about as a new democracy has yet
  810. to meet it.
  811. We don't know what would happen
    if the ANC lost an election.
  812. Would they give up power,
    maybe, maybe not?
  813. So in one respect it's a robust
  814. but people criticize it as
    being minimal saying really
  815. there's more to democracy than
  816. and we'll come back to that
    question next week,
  817. but what I want you to take
    away is I think the enduring
  818. insight of the Schumpeterian
    model that really starts with
  819. Locke's linking.
  820. Locke was very prescient;
    he saw three centuries ahead.
  821. Linking of majority rule to
    this idea of resisting
  822. domination,
    that non-domination,
  823. this idea of resisting
  824. however you institutionalize it
    and operationalize it and all of
  825. that,
    that is the basic animating
  826. ideal of democracy.
  827. We'll pick up from there on