The Big Normative Questions: How can institutions make a coherent policy choice which stays within democratic governance? How can institutions promote stable sets of public policies, while further solving collective action problems? How can multiple equilibriums after an institutional-rational choice analysis reveal democratic governance?
[restate the big normative question as the abstract and add evidence]
Rational choice analysis of institutions was a long time coming. In the 1950s and 1960s, political science acquired much congressional research via the marriage of structural-functionalism and behavioralism (e.g. instrumental rationality); however, rational choice shortly thereafter became a dominant preference for many. After much research, anomalies were noticed. The first anomaly observed that research explained stability, but “in no sense was there evidence that majority cycling was a constant companion of legislative life” (Shepsle and Weingast, 1994, 151). Second, today’s models seek an institutional analysis (i.e., norms), while the first generation rational choice models did not. Third, today’s models account for majorities, party structure and agency, while the first generational models did not.
As rational choice means that individuals attempt to achieve a preferred ends, whether it be reelection (Mayhew), pork for constituents (Fenno), or district policy goals. According to rational choice, under positive political theory, congressmen must cooperate (e.g., logrolling) in order to achieve their preferred ends. However, this focus left deliberative democracy unattended and “dismissed as mood music” (Shepsle and Weingast, 1994, 152). This was the fourth anomaly.
The second generation models proliferated in the 1980s and came closer answering our big normative questions. Some focused on politics-of-distribution and spatial representation, which illuminated the expressions of legislative self interest via institutional structure (Shepsle and Weingast, 1994). Yet these existed in the field with imperfect information. Institutional arrangements were exogenous. Parties were thought to exist in order to solve collective action problems, but there evidence was thin. Party leaders were agents to direct change, but mechanisms coaxing that change were thin. And, these studies focused on adjusting institutional arrangements—not creating them.
Second generation models did analyze congressional, institutional arrangements—according to the demand side, or, exchange for increasing the legislator’s welfare. Thus committees produce the collective product of legislative cooperation. Accordingly, second generation models discovered that “institutional arrangements are driven not by the demand-side desire for deals but rather by the supply-side requirements of production” (Shepsle and Weingast, 1994, 157). And, these models realized that transaction costs matter because “rights allocated within the legislature are costlessly enforced” (Ibid). Thus, the infamous pasture metaphor regarding the privatize solution to collective action problems was a thorny puzzle. Third generation models clarified some of the former puzzle.
Under third generation studies, gains from exchange requires “swapping influence across jurisdictions, a prospect requiring multiple jurisdictions they care most about” (e.g., committee assignment) (italics mine, Shepsle and Weingast, 1994, 156). In this way, mechanisms to enable logrolling arise and permeate transactions, committee strength must be measured (e.g. as opposed to the Speaker), balance of power among committees (i.e. new committees should be formed when power distribution is adverse). Thus, third generation models were endogenous and explained alternative mechanisms to the staus quo.
Under third generation studies, a majoritarian postulate signifies that institutions are endogenous. By incorporation of observable practices, scholars were able to determine equilibriums. This analysis consigned a path of individual preferences, and, institutions (Krehbiel). More over, institutions change into something new when they impede the will of the majority (Riker). The uncertainty postulate reveals policy instruments and policy effects as distinct—legislators act under imperfect information (Shepsle and Weingast, 1994).Thus, these models account for how legislators create information designed to capture policy asymmetry. Research suggests that committees are centrist and interested in the median voter.
Those who manipulate the agenda may have a preferred interest in exploiting disequilibrium. Tastes are in dispute during quiet times, and institutions are in dispute during turbulent times (Riker). According to the paradox of irrepressibility (Black), disequilibrium was inherent within distributions of taste, not institutions. Even though models show paths for winning, there may be the absence of a significant winner; meaning, losing preferences may be consequential. Also, the research determines that disequilibrium can occur under majority voting, whereas tastes account for the disequilibrium (Arrow). Furthermore, when equilibrium shatters, it cannot be quickly put back together (McKelvey). For example, the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian agrarian coalition fell apart because of the free soil issue—which had been solved by the constitution already!
Equilibrium is achieved by suppressing resistance—by force (Riker). Consequently, equilibria may be similar institutionally under majority rule or dictatorships (Riker). Of particular salience, “Disequilibrium, or the potential that the status quo be upset, is the characteristic feature of politics” (Riker, 1980, 443). Therefore tastes and institutions must be studied. This does not imply a study of power. Rules and structures may delineate how legislation is to be accomplished. Decentralized processes divide the whole into parts for examination (e.g., committees, parties, bureaucracies).
Jurisdictional processes shed light on the dimensions for decision making. According to Shepsle, “structural equilibria exist in a committee system, provided the members’ preferences can be represented by quasi-concave, continuous utility functions and the committee system operates in an m-dimensional space in such a way that each dimension is under the particular jurisdiction of a particular committee” (Riker, 1980, 444). The evidence reveals that there is short-term cultural and structural constraints may advance stability; however, the constant is instability. Accordingly, arrows theorem suggests that social choices will be incoherent unless we (1) restrict peoples’ preferences, or, (2) restrict the available alternatives. After all, party decision making is complex.
According to Aldrich, “A system of parties is thus defined as those parties engaged in strategic interaction from election to election, competing for popular support” (2011, 57). Parties influence congressional behavior. A homogenous majority party will be able to capture public policy direction (Cox and McCubbins). A homogenous majority party is able to devise mechanisms to determine the party’s public good, externalities and coordination. Not only is this party able to direct the former, but is also able to create the institutions to achieve their preferred n. This is a supply-side approach. Thus the party label matters to the legislator, and, the legislator has an interest in efficient mechanisms to solve party goals. Parties resolve internal disputes in order to achieve the collective goods they seek and to prevent shirking. This approach is endogenous, whereas the party is a cartel.
Evidence suggests that there is no statistically significant divergence between the party members in a committee and the party median. And that there sometimes exists divergence within narrow constituencies (e.g., Agriculture, Education, Labor (Cox and McCubbins). On the other hand, evidence suggests that parties will design institutions to get what they want right from the beginning. Conversely, studies need to account for the President as leader of the party, and, the president’s influence over policy—even if congressmen benefit tremendously from authorizing the bureaucracy. In short, legislators need the party’s name and the party leaders dictate how the game is played.
Therefore, some models focus on committees within jurisdictional rights over legislation, and, parties seeking internal harmony in order to accomplish party preferences. The former assures that committees matter, while the latter finds that committee leaders enact legislation which was designed by the party, because the party coordinated the committee assignments and future assignments. Shepsle and Weingast (1994) suggest that these differences can compliment each other and both matter.
To this point, political scientists have advanced models for positive theories of congressional institutions. Demand side analysis discovers gains from exchange (i.e. cooperation). Supply side discovers mechanisms at work for the legislator’s benefit (e.g., parties and committees). The literature suggests that significant political change is an inescapable past, present and future phenomenon. Importantly, third generation models attempt to account for decision making which cause change. From modeling gains from exchange (first generation), to informational decision making and partisan legislative politics; salient branching points occur in light of supply-side and demand-side legislative decision making. Those who manipulate the agenda may have a preferred interest in exploiting disequilibrium. Short-term cultural and structural constraints may advance stability; however, the constant is instability. Of particular salience, voting theory offers how preferences may cause choices.
Voting theory discovers behavior and big normative questions. In this manner, legislators preferences may be accounted for against available alternatives (advanced in third generation models). The literature suggests that there are two “streams” of behavioral equilibrium (see Aldrich. 2011. Why Parties?: A Second Look ). On the one hand, positive behavioral equilibriums showing positive results about what “society” would choose. For example, the median voter theorem displays single peaked voter preferences along a single continuum (Black, 1958).
The legislators’ preferred policy goal will be the median voter and will showcase behavioral equilibrium, thus, parties on the right and left will converge upon the center [which is good for our big normative questions] (Downs). We will see many different behavioral equilibriums change through time, against many other alternatives which were denied. As Will Durant said, “The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority.” Plott (1967) suggested that there is a pareto efficient robust equilibrium; meaning, there are many equilibriums that are reasonable under democratic theory (e.g. core). Additionally, slightly more recent scholars prevailed in explaining a Downsian spatial model comprised of multiple dimensions, with behavioral equilibriums dependant upon symmetry conditions (e.g. cleavages). Conversely, Plott discovered that disequilibrium was the norm. No one is suggesting that a country is in the core of democratic theory (i.e. has reasonably solved the institutional normative questions).
Institutions can lead is to the discovery of what Aldrich (2011) called structure-induced equilibriums (e.g., institutions, majority rule) and preference-induced equilibriums. When voters’ decision(s) reflect preferences (i.e. sincere), and may be myopic. On the other hand, sophisticated voting means that the player accounts for the other player’s future—as well as their own. Thus, researcher must attribute the vote counts according to their actual paths (e.g., Condorcet winner, cycling).
Discovering equilibriums is not unimportant. The preference equilibrium contains virtue, since elites’ votes against majority rule is half the battle. As Aldrich (2011) said, “When there is a well-defined sense of what the majority prefers, the majority will work its will.” For example, in a multiple person legislature, the median voter’s preference, once given, will be preferred by a majority. On the other hand, the parties have an incentive to act as a Surety for their constituents; meaning, party platforms matter (Grynaviski, 2010). Rational choice suggests dividing the winning coalition (on legislation) by those whom voted with the median voter and those whom voted against (Aldrich, 2011). Of consequence, transaction costs may me measured between the median voter and all other players, including an analysis of the parties. This reveals equilibrium. Compiling the year’s results leads to defining robust equilibriums. Some may be in the democratic core and contain strong mechanisms to retain democratic governance [working paper on American political languages provides evidence].
So, how can institutions make a coherent policy choice and avoid voting cycles? They solve the peoples’ collective action problems (Aldrich) as a public utility (van Biezen) in some form of equilibria (i.e. an aggregate analysis of all major institutions) in light of the democratic core. On the other hand, prima facie, evidence of disequilibrium abound, because the players have such variant preferences and behavioral traits. Therefore, this research helps clarify the need to research all institutions in light of their behavior and preferences, and, the democratic core (i.e. absent of non-democratic preferences and attitudes).
To solve collective action problems and promote a stable set of public policies, the officials campaign with a party’s incentive program (e.g., party platform) and their own platform (self). In doing so, they solve the problem of low voter knowledge and low voter turnout (Aldrich). Clearly, citizens may have different median preferences regarding reasonable voter turnout. Voting is a major tenet of the democratic core, so that is not at issue here. Indeed, a party’s reputation may appease voter efficacy, reminding them of Downs. If it’s not going to be a close election, people will stay home. Party campaigns are measured as a component regarding the impact of elections as equilibrium. Aldrich (2011) was right, “parties are the consequences of the actions of political elites in a republican democracy” (51). And legislators may be removed from the party for altercations of the democratic core.
This is a rational choice analysis of institutions. In practice, President Obama’s cabinet positions are exogenous/endogenous institutions, and each showcases some form of equilibrium. According to the news, the Department of Defense and other agencies have violated the democratic core. Hence, the United Statesis not in the democratic core. Przeworski was right that countries should be divided by democracy and dictatorship in order to exclude non-democracies. But today the U.S. violates portions of the democratic core. Thus, this is a useful approach for what constitutes as a democracy.
Contentious politics aside, I can now measure grassroots phenomenon. Girdwood (working paper) researches the median voter of the Tea Party movement and investigates whether or not there are democratic core deficiencies within behavior and preferences. The implications are positive. If in the democratic core, then it is part of the pareto efficient democratic core [surrounded by multiple equilibriums]. If not, then it is evidence that the entire country is not in the democratic core, since it violates the rules of democracy. To be sure, both the government and the people must remain in the democratic core [therefore positive democratic equilibrium] to satisfy the requirements of democracy.
Public candidates running for office cannot break the behavioral or preference norms of the democratic core. This restricts behavior and preferences to the point of the creation of new networks, norms, and trust (Arrow was right). Regardless of a priori democratic equilibria, researchers need to establish scientific analysis as described in this democratic core model (e.g., cabinets, presidential foreign policy and domestic policy, Supreme Court decisions). Do they break the long-established traits of democratic governance? Two things have to be confirmed to attribute a country as in the democratic core. First, their citizens must not believe in anti-democratic behavior (e.g., denial of habeas corpus to a person on earth, secret renditions, torture, “civilian” casualties by drones, etc. AND, their government must not believe in the former anti-democratic behavior either. Of course, any empirical evidence of anti-democratic activity excludes the country from the democratic core. It’s true, there is a reason for patriotism to exist.
Democracy, one might argue, is not synonymous with citizen virtue [or republican government]. After all, every society has criminals, so how does that not exclude the country from the democratic core? Well, a reasonable approach would find no tolerance of institutional abuse on part of the government, and, the majority. In order to affirm the democratic core, the citizens / government must correct the citizen/official offender(s) (e.g., incarcerate, dishonorably discharge, publicly denounce). The point of this research is to suggest that eqiulibriums can be researched in government by office and sub-offices (e.g., committees, cabinets, governmental corporations, and agencies (CIA, NSA, FBI)) according to the democratic core–to empirically establish whether or not a country is a democracy.
Let’s find out. Remember to use third generation models [or this one]. Institutions are not only defined by their constitutional rules, party rules, or procedure—but by their actions too. Long live democracy!