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An Economic Theory of Democracy

Uploaded by vijayB69 on Oct 26, 2011

This paper is an examination of the book An Economic Theory of Democracy by Anthony Downs.

Anthony Down’s basic tenet is that governments, being enormously powerful economic entities, should be considered at least as much from an economic standpoint as a political one. “But little progress has been made toward a generalized yet realistic behavior role for a national government similar to the rules traditionally used for consumers and producers.” (P. 3). The book, then, is Down’s attempt to construct such a rule for rational governmental behavior along economic lines.
His first step is to define “rational”, which he sees as “efficiently maximizing output for a given input, or minimizing input for a given output.” (P. 5). It’s important to realize that he is not discussing “rationality” and “rational behavior” as we usually do – to describe a logical thinker, or “a man without prejudices, or a man whose emotions are inoperative” (P. 5) – but as an economic quality. In economics, Downs sees a rational man as one “who moves toward his goals in a way which, to the best of his knowledge, uses the least possible input of scarce resources per unit of valued output.” (P. 5) In today’s parlance, the rational man gets the biggest bang for his buck. Or put another way, the rational man acts first in his own self-interest.
Downs is careful to explain that all men proceed toward all goals in much this same way, and his decision to focus only on economic and political goals is completely arbitrary. (P. 7). He ends his introduction by succinctly restating his thesis: although governments are of unusual importance in every economy, “economic theory has produced no satisfactory behavior rule for them comparable to the rules it uses to predict the actions of consumers and firms.” (P. 20). Downs attempts “to provide such a rule by positing that democratic governments act rationally to maximize political support.” (P. 20).
He begins with a study of party motivation, then moves to voting, which of course plays a huge part in any governmental system. He starts with the premise that “citizens act rationally in politics … [and] … each citizen casts his vote for the party he believes will provide him with more benefits than any other.” (P. 36).
He also points out that voters can deviate...

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Uploaded by:   vijayB69

Date:   10/26/2011

Category:   Politics

Length:   4 pages (972 words)

Views:   2060

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