“A New Democracy Designer” Walks into a Comp. Exam

Advice for passing comps:

…identify the big normative question in your answer. There are two such reasons I can think of off-hand. First, it demonstrates to your examiner that you understand why scholars care about the much-more-specific political science question that you are being asked to address. Second, it provides you with a tool to fill-out your essay in such a way as to demonstrate a mastery of the literature—Professor ω.

Practice Comp. Question:

If and when there is a 4th Wave of democracy, as a political scientist, how would you go about recommending a plan for a new democracy? For example, should it be a parliament or a federal republic? How does a vote of [no] confidence affect outcomes? Can game theory be utilized?

Introduction: [Caveat Emptor: successfully answering this comp. question means answering political science’s Biggest Normative Question. Surely, no political comp. exam could be as ruthless as this question. For the answer would fundamentally change the practice of political science. Let us humbly begin].

Political science [at the beginning of the second millennium] is a rigorous contestation regarding what counts for science in the field of politics. Some claim the duality of dictatorships and democracies. Others admonish political scientists whom label a state as failed. Indeed, there is no agreed upon definition of democracy amongst political scientists, though many subscribe to, or self-define, a definition. Further, Bourdieu has moved political science past Kuhnian paradigms. Anomalies have transformed into the more attractive habitus. This allows for the field to grow in complexity, while allowing for a piling-on of scholarship without thwarting a paradigm. This is not unimportant. Today’s political scientists may, therefore, empirically demonstrate if and when political phenomena alter or inhibit specific habitus. Consequently, political scientists may suggest wiser forms of government. In this manner, the culture of political science demands an illumination of “the big normative question.”

This comp. exam will answer the research question by illuminating habitus in the field of the political. There is a prodigious problem; however, there are thousands of answers. Political scientists have been busy! Therefore, my answer will focus on the following: Does the creation of a prime minister (henceforth PM) with the power to force a confidence vote distort public policy away from the center? How do intra-party relations promote effective representation? How do you design electoral institutions to promote effective representation considering ideological congruence? What is the basic structure of democracy which best promotes the peoples’ will? This essay will provide scholarly research in addressing the former questions, respectfully.

This essay will begin with the narrow topic of the vote of confidence. Then, I will briefly delineate how game theory works and comment upon differences of federal and parliamentary systems. Next, I will explore a sample of literature regarding political parties and mechanisms (e.g., patronage). Then, I will explore institutions via ideological congruence. I will finally widen the scope of analysis to major democratic systems and political languages. Each section will begin with the overall structure of the habitus under inspection.


The narrow political science question addressed is: Does the creation of a PM with the power to force a confidence vote distort public policy away from the center?

Huber (1996) [1] illustrates the vote of no confidence by the British House of Commons Maastricht vote procedure. Whereas the labor parties opposed the European worker treaty for “opt-out” [of workers’ rights] reasons, Tory PM also lost the motion because “Euro-rebels” from his very own party formally disapproved too, since they did not desire to cede more power to Europe. However, PM Major moved forward with a vote of confidence on the measure, pointing out to the “Euro-rebels” [fellow Tories] that the polls forecast that Tories would lose the election. Thus, PM Major’s vote of confidence was affirmed as the “Euro-rebels toed the party line” (269).

Huber claims to make two contributions to research on parliamentary democracy: (1) the credible threat of a vote of confidence by the PM is significant, and (2) when that credible threat is strong. For if the political dimensions are known [which would be the job of a political scientist before setting up the democracy to discover and make public], then parties or factions will “compel” the PM to invoke the confidence vote procedure, which political scientists may evaluate through Nash Perfect equilibrium theory. This requires backwards induction. As the vote procedure is a rule, this institutional analysis can get quite complex. According to Huber, “…the actual use of the vote of no confidence procedures should not viewed as a strong arm tactic that a prime minister employs against parliament. Rather, the procedures arise in response to exogenous electoral considerations that encourage position-taking strategies on the floor of parliament” (270).

Huber’s research suggests that the PM wields salient power precisely because s/he determines the initial play in the game. Indeed, this play is sometimes invisible. For example, theoretically, a cabinet member might be spatially in another dimension from the PM; however, it will be in the cabinet member’s interest to originate legislation in-between the PM’s preferred language and the cabinet member’s policy language. Consequently, the cabinet member will thwart calls for the vote of confidence. The implications are immense.

A cabinet member should, according to the former game theory developed, always bargain with the PM’s policy platform. This adds occurrences of the absence of calls for confidence votes. We can deduce that this will strengthen the PM’s credible threat for a confidence vote. A larger issue at stake here is the governmental organization for future democracies. There is a difference between states that invoke the vote of confidence rule (e.g.,England) and states that do not (e.g.,United   States of America), which was outlined above.

Diermeier and Feddersen[3] contribute to the Vote of Confidence literature. Their model reveals through the game theory that coalitions vote together on policy issues that would otherwise cause a divide in states that carry the vote procedure. On the other hand, states that do not carry the vote procedure reveal a completely different game theory analysis. In the case of the United States, parties act as a Surety to voters relaying policy information in order to develop reputations in hopes of reelection.

The differences between democracies need to be better evaluated in light of the formation of new democracies. The literature suggests that parliaments with the vote of confidence will be more likely to form and pass public policy close to the median voter. And in countries that were dictatorships, which are questioning how to build a democracy, having a strong PM might more readily fit the culture of the nation. Culture, certainly, is somewhere in the blood of every political habitus. Furthermore, parliamentary systems are generally more top-down than federal governments, whereas party leaders and ministers are the key players engaging legislative bargaining, while federal governments (e.g.U.S.) send bills to committee(s).

Huber and McCarty[4] investigate the Unilateral Model and the Collective Cabinet Model. They find a bit of role reversal: PM wins in Unilateral Model because the threat of a dissolved government is imminent after a vote of no confidence. But in the Collective Cabinet Model, if the PM loses the vote of confidence procedure, then the opponent’s legislation takes effect—unless the PM resigns and dissolves the government [call for elections]. They conclude that under Cabinet, “In a subgame perfect equilibrium, the partner will propose this policy, and the prime minister will accept it” (352).

Huber and McCarty make clear that the type of vote of confidence institution matters. For a new democracy, consider that under unilateral action, the PM will get to eat the cake. Under the Cabinet model, the salient players will keep the cake away from the prime minister. Of course, if these rules are not codified, then the strength [or coalitional strength] of the largest party [or largest coalition] might determine exactly whom to elect as PM!

Huber reasons that the PM, because of the vote of confidence procedure, has the power to alter and constrain policy preferences. This develops the opportunity for game theory analysis. I opened with Huber’s example of a historical record played out, so let’s take a close look at Game Theory and delineate a few main points[2].


Game theory reveals the sophisticated mechanisms that reveal outcomes. Key elements are:

1. Who are the actors in the model?

  • Ruling out the prosecutor from Prisoner’s Dilemma.
  • The actors we exclude can change the structure of the game.

2.  What choices are each of the actors allowed to make?

  • Mum or fink? Plea-bargain? Bribe?
  • Importantly, what choice(s) can’t they make?

3.  What are the actors’ preferences over the set of possible outcomes?

4.  What is the sequence of play?

  • Do actors learn what other players are doing before they make a decision?
  • It can make a huge difference who moves first!
  • Changing the order of play may completely change the predictions!

5.  What is the nature of information in the game?

A. complete vs. incomplete information

Complete describes a game where knowledge about other players’ payoffs and available strategies is known by all.

Incomplete absence of complete information

  • The lack of complete information will tremendously change game (is that car a lemon?).

 B. perfect vs. imperfect information

Perfect exists if all players know all the moves that have taken place and it rules out simultaneous information (e.g., Chess).

Imperfect: absence of perfect information.

  • A  fundamental difference is that in prisoner’s dilemma you have complete information but not perfect information. Any game of complete information can be transformed into a game of perfect information, which is important to know, since the point of research is to try and solve the game.

6.  What are the equilibrium outcomes?

  • Given what all the other players are doing, what is my best response?
  • When you solve a game, you solve for the equilibrium outcome.
  • Game theorists actually care about the mechanisms that sustain the equilibrium!

7.  What are the mechanisms that sustain the equilibria?

  • What’s the key element of this game?
  • Are they making decisions in separate rooms – imperfect information?
  • Is it a single shot game; like the prisoner’s dilemma?  Tit-for-tat…?
  • Stay mum for first arrest will get you mum reputation.
  • How are these equilibria sustained?

8.  Is there a well-defined end to the game?

  • If so, in what ways does the game reach a conclusion that affect(s) inferences one draws?
  • Prisoner’s dilemma 100 games…game 101, fink, very little.
  • Is there an incentive to defect?


Under game theory, this is a summary of germane differences between federal and parliamentary systems:

    Vote of Confidence (U.K.)                                    No Vote of Confidence (U.S.)

[Game theory: number 6 = equilibrium outcomes from above]

*ruling party gets lots of stuff                  *minority party gets a more equal share

*high levels of party cohesion                         * low levels of party cohesion

[Number 7 = what are the mechanisms that sustain equilibria]

*legislators don’t want to lose their job              *surety model

*a vote of no confidence = reelection (bad)        * Party leaders can’t “you’re fired”

***“chicken”                                                             **no chicken

***credible threat of elections                                ***Home Style


BNQ: How do intra-party relations promote effective representation?

The cadence of democracy is drummed upon society from power and compromise by political parties. This cadence is complex, for instance; political scientists determine when are rank-and-file members and activists, drumming up malevolent authoritarianism, or virtuous denizen reflections. Rank-and-file members and influence with particular salience how power within political parties is distributed. Party parliamentarians or the party organization may solely engage decision-making and coalition negotiations.

Pederson’s (2010) intra-party analysis of coalition formation challenges the unitary actor assumptions. For if parties are significantly different in their structures, and, there is an absence of robust regression; then, the unitary actor model should recognize structural differences. Pedersen expands, “How intra-party politics influence inter-party negotiations is a theoretical puzzle.” Surely, this is quite a large habitus.

For example, are coalition negotiations fragmented by decentralized decisions? Are activists or party leaders able to control the agenda? Should the party to control policy agenda over public opinion? In new democracies, could technology enable the people to login to their “voting account” and vote on legislation? V.O. Key supporters may be concerned with this proposition, but it would be more democratic, prima facie. This matters to our research question because power-distribution may significantly impact political developments.

The literature shows that when parties are treated as units, intra-party relations don’t affect the parties’ coalition performance. It also shows that parties with centralized power are likely winners in coalition negotiations. Additionally, decentralized decision procedures create stronger party positions in coalition negotiations (Moar). On the other hand, Pedersen tests internal party distribution within Danish political parties—their winning legislative accommodations. As legislative accommodations are informally binding legislative coalitions between parties and the parliament, there are important differences between internal and external bargaining resources.

Internal bargaining resources are observed during the following inter-party negotiation(s) choice: Does the party compromise on policy in order to influence policy output? Or does party purity mean the most, bargaining via ideological poise in order to reshape the legislation? The former two modes of internal bargaining resources in the policy-seeking model of party behavior; however, according to Pedersen, are confused in some literature. This is because (1) policy purity and (2) policy influence engage different strategies to accomplish public policy in the midst of specific coalition behavior. Invariably, these party formations may impact policy implementation and distort the public will.

Policy purists try to influence the overall public debate and policy agenda and are less likely to enter into coalitions, like the Danish SPP, who where unable to internally enter into coalitional government with the similar minded Social Democrats. Indeed, being unable to enter into a coalition and gain cabinet positions due to the national party organization protests may keep a purity party from distorting the public will, because strong external bargaining resources trump weaker internal bargaining resources. Thus, “Party motives in inter-party negotiations are conditioned by intra-party politics” (page 739). Therefore, purity parties would distort the will of the median voter, but they are unable to do so because they fail to entertain legislative accommodations. Unless they expand the scope of conflict (Schattschneider) and impact political attitudes, they will be ineffective in distorting parties of influence from attaining their political goals.

Pedersen tests the power structure within the party from candidate, sanction, policy, and information. Candidate as an analysis determines how the PM / MP is selected. For example, does the candidate nominate themselves, like Obama in theU.S., and rise from a grassroots mechanism? Or does the national party hand pick the successor? Ex ante, the national party may control the ideology of the candidate. Ex post, the national party may deny compromisers reselection. Sanction illuminates who slaps the executive’s hand, so to speak: the national party or a parliamentarian? For example, MPs acting against the party may lose their seat via exclusion as a decision by the party. Exclusion is a deleterious reprimand to the MP because it means forced retirement.

Policy as an analysis depicts whether or not the parliamentarian is in command of political direction and law creation, or the national party organization. Conversely, must policy be a reflection of the party platform? Information as an analysis depicts whether or not parliamentarians inform the national party organization of new legislation processes and content. If so, does the party veto policy compromises before the vote decision? Of course, the science of this is to understand, exactly to what extent the former create an observed power-distribution (Pedersen). This might illuminate how the public will is distorted.

Pedersen thus does operationalize the former items of power to determine the effects of external and internal bargaining power upon legislative accommodations. She finds that power distribution does not significantly impact the coalition behavior of political parties. She suggests that parties with a strong national government are more likely to enforce party purity, thus largely; they are more inflexible during inter-party pacts. Hence, purity parties are less likely to transform policy into law.  Pedersen reveals that intra-party politics systematically does impact the coalition behavior of political parties—that their stance may shift because of the power of the national party, depending upon the position advocated by the party: purity, or, policy influence. This must be accounted for when designing a parliament in order to realize how the median voter might lose.

What if the median voter is not a member of a political party? In established democracies, parties are quantitatively declining. Leadership is qualitatively redesigning the incentives to induce enrollment. New members may play a more active roll. Indeed, the demographics of party memberships have never mirrored population demographics. Party members are much more likely than the average Joe to engage in intense political activities and behavior. Party members are wealthier than the average citizen, more often middle class and union members. Party members are more often male and more religious, and, older than the average denizen. This is important because it might clarify how party membership distorts public policy according to the public will.

Scarrow and Gezgor not only prove that age membership significantly increased in 7 of 8 European countries, but, discussed the impact of policy preferences upon pensions. And party members were significantly male dominated, from 10 to 30 percent in the 2000s. And party members in 6 of 7 countries were positively more educated, than the population in the 2000s. Six countries showed positive union differences, from 6 to 30 percent. Five countries proved significant positive income differences, between party members and the population in the 2000s. And then Scarrow and Gezgor compared this data to the 1990s data.

Scarrow and Gezgor found that with the exception of age, statistically, the demography of party membership over the two decades transformed toward the population average. Thus the distance between the voters and the activists in the parties is a closing gap, though still a gorge. Their evidence says that party membership is shifting away from those few citizens with bountiful resources. Hence, this new discover discourages political scientists to advocate May’s Law.

May’s Law stipulates that party members prefer political incentives, and, that party members are [strongly] ideologically driven. However, an Eurobarameter study determined that the ideological gap between the party members and populace existed, but that the gap did not impact by more than a point the political polarization walls (it was not of salience). There is no evidence that the drop in party membership has led to the enrollment of radicals! There is no evidence that the drop in party membership has left the party system a more polarized environment—of parties distancing themselves from the median voter.

Party patronage and the nature of parties is of importance to the formation of new democracies. Kopecký and Spirova from Leiden University, and Gerardo Scherlis from Buenos Aires, scientifically study this messy center. Regime consolidation and regime performance, they find, are impacted by party performance. And these new democracies have created many political parties. Thus, the workings of parties as discrete actors is important to party organization.

Kopecký, Spirova and Scherlis study of party patronage, adding to the research of electoral behavior, relationships of parties, organizations, and civil society—adding to our knowledge of membership. They don’t research the relationship to society, rather the state. They link patterns of party patronage with models of party frames and empirically measure patronage to solicit clarification of the party membership decline debate.

Patronage is an electoral resource (a dyadic relationship) between a politician or party, and, access to the supporter. However, patronage is also an organizational resource, which occurs when the party patronage actually purports to distribute positions in state institutions to supporters. Importantly, one must decide whether or not the politician or the party makes the appointment. Or, does the new government simply stamp the party’s list of friends? Are these jobs for friends or expanding professional networks instead?

Parties today may form as cadre parties, mass parties, or cartel parties. Kopecký, Spirova and Scherlis research the difference between the goal of the party and motivations. When the motivation of the patronage is electoral, the party’s goal is to increase votes. When the motivation of the patronage is organizational, they seek cohesion, discipline, fund-raising, and partisan networks. When the motivation of the patronage is governmental, the party’s goal is about decision-making process control.

Kopecký, Spirova and Scherlis examine the differences between party patronage and party organizations. When we’re researching a Cadre Party, intra-party patronage control is by party notables and motivations for patronage are habitually electoral, whereas appointees are personal friends and supporters. When we’re researching a Mass Party, intra-party patronage control is advanced by the central office and motivations for patronage are organizational and enormous, whereas appointees are not personal fiends; rather, partisans. When we’re researching a Cartel Party, intra-party patronage control resides with the public office and motivations for patronage sound a governmental chorus, whereas appointees are party experts and elites from academia. So under the cartel party style, one may argue that new democracies may worry less about the actual size of party membership, since professionals may be restrained by institutions to promote the public will (e.g., elections, ethical regulations).


I digress: Written comps. are common, but they do not share a common methodology. At some universities, students are given 24-72 hours and all available resources. On the other hand, there are universities which put the graduate student in a computer lab—GRE style—with the option of a dictionary and [non-annotated] bibliography. In this case, the student might have roughly 2 hours per question—how fast can you type in two hours? How quickly can you formulate a structured answer and recall years of coursework? Prima facie, one would expect very different answers from the student(s) under these unique testing conditions. Future graduate students and PhD transfers should inquire about the written comp. process at time of application, and seriously take this into consideration. For the first method tests the graduate student’s ability to productively research and critique, leaving the student with a 20 pager for future use. The latter method tests rote memory, which isn’t that useful in our information age, and places the essay in a vault—unavailable for future use.


How do you design electoral institutions to promote effective representation considering ideological congruence?

Electoral institutions, traditionally, are measured by causal influences on party systems. Benoit (2007) adds to the literature by measuring causal influences as effects or byproducts of party systems and claiming that electoral systems do not stabilize as equilibrium institutions. Political scientists agree that there is a mutual relationship between party and electoral systems; because, electoral systems impact party systems while they were formed amidst partisan electoral competition. The democratic intent of electoral institutions is to implant representatives of the people into government, yet these processes are complex and may or may not reflect the will of the people.

Duverger (1951) examined two mechanical forces at play in electoral laws: mechanical and psychological. The mechanical aspect is the mechanism which constrains and translates votes into MP seats. The psychological aspect is the mechanism which frames voter and party responses, due to perceptions of the mechanical aspect. Scholarly literature often used these concepts to explain this habitus regarding party size and alternative electoral institutions; however, founding electoral systems [our comp. question] must be distinguished from amending an existing democracy.

Benoit (2007) finds several factors inherent in founding electoral systems. First, uncertainty, a lack of reliable information, and imperfect information regarding electoral rules may reveal a large gap between perceived preferences and actual preferences among political actors, which consequently shuns predictability and stability. Second, decision-makers may be constrained by new constitutional measures, and may thus focus on bargaining power, social aspects, and informal agreements; meaning, the new democracy may suffer from past authoritarian regime legacies and power asymmetries. Third, institutions from the previous regime may be de facto unacceptable, but new institutions may not be in place, or, ill-defined. The status quo dimensions of a dictatorship are far from ideal democratic political habitus. Fourth, political parties and coalitions may be ill-defined. Lastly, “but most important… is the perceived legitimacy of the institution chosen. In founding elections, the objective of establishing institutions that will be perceived as just, appropriate, or at least acceptable may take priority over the pursuit of individual, partisan goals” (384).


I digress: Good scholars explore the literature in-depth. However, one must be very careful in rearticulating the author’s relevant points without taking those points out of context, even though your interpretation may not rearticulate exactly what the author had preferred most important. For example, in the former paragraph, I add upon my introduction’s assumptions about “habitus,” which is no where in the Benoit article, but necessary for greater understanding of the Benoit article. On the other hand, my use of habitus may clarify misconceptions in the literature, which may also successfully engage the puzzle of the research question at hand. This would be affirmed by public disagreement in academic articles or blogs. Hence my bold comment on the state of the discipline: Political science is a rigorous contestation regarding what counts for science in the field of politics. Thus, reach into the habitus and give your research question some nuance.


Political scientists are beginning to measure the ideological preferences of electorates. Golder and Stramski (2010) posit that the usual way to measure citizen-representative congruence “is in terms of the absolute ideological difference between the median citizen and the government” (i.e., absolute congruence) (90). However, other scholars add to the former data respecting the dispersion of citizens’ preferences (i.e., relative congruence). This creates two answers. The first is useful when analyzing many-to-one relationships. The latter is useful when accounting for the relationship between representative performance and a more accurate measurement of congruence upon citizens preferences.

Golder and Stramski (2010) create a new conceptualization of ideological congruence. This specific method is used to “capture[s] a long tradition in democratic theory emphasizing the ideal of having a legislature that accurately reflects the ideological preferences of the citizenry as a whole” (91). Their research adds to the literature on vote-seat disproportionality (i.e., how the peoples’ vote transformed into MPs); however, the evidence suggests that “ideological congruence between citizens and their government is not substantively higher in proportional democracies than in majoritarian ones. Proportional democracies are, however, characterized by more congruent legislatures” (Italics in original) (91).

Golder and Stramski (2010) conceptualize congruence as:

  1. one citizen or many citizens.
  2. one representative or many representatives.
  • One-to-one
    • Congruence is high if absolute difference between citizen and representative is small
  • Many-to-one
    • Congruence is high if absolute difference between citizen and representative is small
  • Many-to-many
    • Congruence is high if citizen distributions and representative preferences are similar; and perfect when the two distributions are identical

Many-to-many relationships offer multiple premises (most of which have yet to be explored). Here a scholar may inquire into the relationship between the representatives as a whole and their reflection upon the ideological preferences of its denizens. For example, Researcher G may survey citizens and find that 30 percent are socialists. Thus, are 30 percent of the seats in the legislature reserved for socialists? If not, what do comparisons between countries that are perfectly ideologically represented vs. a two-party system say? Indeed, Golder and Stramski (2010) find that, “In fact, all of the measures indicate that the mean level of congruence is higher in countries that employ majoritarian electoral systems (101) (italics mine).

Golder and Stramski (2010) determine that the institutional [structured] differences in majoritarian and proportional representation (i.e. consensus) are conceptually significant. In evidence, t-tests upon the dispersion of citizen preferences are reduced in majoritarian democracies. CSES surveys, Eurobarometer, and WVS surveys confirm the preliminary evidence. Measurements under The Golder / Stramski Model accounts for the dispersion of citizens preferences, which has long been a goal for political scientists. More over, this new evidence does not overturn conventional wisdom in light of the fact that there was change over time (Powell, 2009).

I shall now expand upon the structure of democracies with respect to the exam question.

What is the basic structure of democracy which best promotes the peoples’ will?

Democracy is an evolving model for letting people make the laws (i.e. we all have a definition for democracy). There is open contestation to win office, therefore available to all citizens, and everyone knows that the new government can change the laws. Thus there are democratic flows, whereas; the judicial, legislative, and executive powers are separate shows. Liberalization is not the same as democratization. The former may entail habeas corpus, a free media, and recognizing the opposition, while the latter requires free competitive elections so that the opposition may justly win. There can be liberalization without honest elections—without democratization (Linz and Stepan, 1996).

Democracy is present when it is observed behaviorally, attitudinally, and constitutionally. Behaviorally, democracy is consolidated when there are: No significant social, political, economic barriers to the population; national or institutional actors seek ends through democratic means. Behaviorally, there are no anti-democratic trends. Attitudinally, democracy is consolidated when democratic procedures and institutions govern collective life according to public opinion. Constitutionally, democracy is consolidated when conflict within the territory of the state is resolved, habitually, by democratic procedures and laws, and, when institutions conform to democratic mores according to the constitution (Linzand Stepan. 1996). Consequently, those three measures are obliged to be present for any observer to determine that a state is a democracy.

On the other hand, Lijphart uses Dahl’s Polyarchy to describe the existence of democracy. There are not 3 tenets, rather 8! They are: the right to vote, the right to be elected, the right of political parties to compete, free and fair elections, freedom of association, freedom of expression is infused into the public, information from all sources are tolerated, and finally, institutions depend on votes. Unfortunately, one could go on indefinitely. It is widely known that “democracy” is defined differently across the field and through time.

Lijphart carefully designed a range of democracy. Political scientists are quite careful to explain their “model” for the public to carp or praise. Lijphart said that Dahl’s eight “democracy” rungs had to continue for 19 years, otherwise, he withheld from the his research by means that the country was not to be considered a democracy. In Patterns of Democracy, in thirty-six countries, Lijphart researched the “consensus” and “majoritarian,” models. The models are complex.

A standard majoritarian model is institutionalized within theU.K.. Of consensus areSwitzerlandand the European Union today. Consensus is more democratic than the majoritarian way. The majoritarian model consigns power to the cabinet, which is comprised of party members [from the House of Commons]. In the majoritarian model, if a singly party governs the Parliament, like in theU.K., where one party has been quite dominant, then power remains strong—until a vote of no confidence is delivered. Again, the vote of confidence may be understood through game theory and is an important component of this exam topic.

A two-party system is largely the norm in a majoritarian system. Both parties may be quite similar, in fact, with small differences on issues, such as economics. Also descriptive of the majoritarian mold is the pluralist method called “first past the post.” Here, the candidate with the most votes wins even if it’s only 1 more vote than 10 other candidates. Importantly, some political scientists think that this “manufactures majorities” (Lijphart, 1999. Page 15. Quote attributed to Douglas W. Rae (1967, 74) [oh, they won’t expect this notation for the two hour exam GRE model].

In this two party system, thus, there may be disproportional representation. For example, most cleavages are represented under consensus, while small parties in majoritarian models are nearly excluded. The majoritarian model is much more likely to determine the make-up of the legislation without the opposition party. Further, the majoritarian approach is unitary and centralized government and often advances public policy through a unicameral legislature. For example, even though the House of Lords, in the U.K., may delay public policy by a year—that’s the only obstacle that they may institutionally place. Finally, there may not be a written and the absence of judicial review. This is all very different than the United States, where a bicameral legislature is in place as well as judicial review [i.e. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company].

In the Westminister Model (majoritarian), the cabinet holds so much power over the institutions [and the PM is the player that de facto makes the first policy play]. De jure, the cabinet may control the central bank. On the other hand, in a consensus model, Lijphart observed, elections account for parties that are small, whereas people vote for a party to hold seats so that the will of the people accounts for defections and treats all parties equally. Thus under consensus, the voter indicates a party to hold seats in the parliament. The vote totals are translated to a proportional-representation scheme. This clearly makes for multiple parties, coalition cabinets, power-sharing presidents, federal and decentralized governments. There’s a constitution, judicial review, bicameral institution, and bank independence too. Consenus embraces interest group corporatism, which is called concertation. In this case, labor, government, and business sign tripartite pacts to engage functional compromises. Hence the literature suggests that consensus systems are more democratic than majoritarian systems.

Narrowly, American is a mix of consensus and majoritarian traits. Congress persons are elected by people from the states. The President is elected by state representatives, through the Electoral College, which “forms a single-purpose disposable parliament” (Deegan-Krause, lecture, 2012). State electors choose a President. For example, Gore won the peoples’ vote but was never President. The bank is independent. There is judicial review and bicameralism; however, the two-party system rules. Further, American has more veto-points than any other democracy. On the other hand, theoretically, the American President still de facto makes the first policy move—the the PM.

Insert critique of federalism: Start with Rodden (2006), Hamilton’s Paradox.

Insert political languages: republicanism and liberalism. Start with American Exceptionalism. It’s just not right to have to form a new democracy without accounting for culture. How else would you look for salient cleavages?

In Conclusion:

Evidence from 36 established democracies recommends consensus over the majoritarian model (Lijphart). If the new democracy is organized to mimic the cartel party system, then the bureaucracy will more likely resemble a professional system, which is less likely to distort the will of the median voter. A decline in party membership does not mean radicalization of the party from the will of the median voter, therefore a new democracy should focus on building institutions that promote habitus affiliated with democratic mores. Parties seeking influence over purity are more likely to create public policy and affect the citizens’ society.

Game theory may be utilized via backwards induction to understand the mechanisms driving policy—and how it may distort the public will. For example, there is evidence that coalitions vote together on policy issues that would otherwise cause a divide in states that do not carry the vote procedure. On the other hand, states that do not carry the vote procedure reveal a completely different game theory analysis. In the case of the United States(e.g., federalism), parties act as a Surety to voters relaying policy information in order to develop reputations in hopes of reelection.

Under game theory, equilibrium within the state engaging the vote of confidence rewards the ruling party and showcases high levels of party cohesion; however, states without the vote of confidence provide the minority party with a more equal share and showcases low levels of party cohesion. The mechanisms that sustain equilibria in states designed with the vote of confidence are the party’s power to exclude MPs, reelection through a vote of no confidence, and even the credible threat of elections. However, in states without the vote of confidence, party leaders do not fire MPs, and the MPs are particularly responsive to their electorate.

In a study to create a new democracy, evidence is needed describing the differences between party patronage and party organizations—or the expected normative institutions to be set-up in order to incentivize Cartel Party intra-party patronage; whereas, control resides with the public office and motivations for patronage are to employ [literally] party experts and elites from academia. In this case, new democracies may institutionalize a professional bureaucracy and constrain institutions so that they promote the public will (e.g., elections, progressive regulations).

The new conceptualization of ideological congruence (Golder and Stramski) should be empirically analyzed prior to the set-up of a new democracy. This specific method captures our normative ideal: that a legislature accurately reflects the ideological preferences of the citizenry. Vote-seat disproportionality (i.e., how the peoples’ vote transformed into MPs) should be addressed, yet no immediate bias should be made between citizens and their government, and, no initial bias should be made towards proportional democracies or majoritarian democracies. Proportional democracies, however, may create the most congruent legislatures.

Congruence should be accounted for via The Golder and Stramski Model; whereby, one citizen or many citizens, one representative or many representatives are analyzed by: (1) One-to-one (i.e. congruence is high if absolute difference between citizen and representative is small), many-to-one (i.e. congruence is high if absolute difference between citizen and representative is small, many-to-many (congruence is high if citizen distributions and representative preferences are similar; and perfect when the two distributions are identical). This research should be made available to the people prior the first election. And the approval of the constitution should be a referendum too.

In light of the evidence put forth in this paper, I recommend an analysis of the countries attitudes, behavior and demographics prior to writing a constitution. In fact, as this short analysis escaped hundreds of other pertinent habitus in the field of the political, I recommend a conference with the major players hoping to organize a sustainable democracy. Finally, an analysis of the political languages spoken within the existing society about the role of government must be addressed as soon as possible.



 [1] Huber. 1996. The Vote of No Confidence in Parliamentary Democracies. American Political Science Review. 90, 2.

[2] Dr. Grynaviski lecture, Wayne State University. April 2012.

[3] Diermeier and Feddersen. 1998. Cohesion in Legislatures and the Vote of Confidence Procedure. American Political Science Review. 92, 3.

[4] Huber and McCarty. 2001. Cabinet Decision Rules and Political Uncertainty in Parliamentary Bargaining. American Political Science Review. 95, 2.

Alas, let’s imagine that you are under the GRE style exam…there is no time to write out a bibliography, my friend. You probably won’t have time to proofread your essay(s) either. For if this essay was articulated under the GRE style—I’d think you majored in Fahrenheit 451 instead of political science.


2 thoughts on ““A New Democracy Designer” Walks into a Comp. Exam

  1. When majority govts are elected – under parties not individuals (reps) – the people give the party and hence their leader the mandate to be the embodiment of the public will….. Precisely bc they run on specific platforms and ideological frameworks.

    • do the people that didn’t vote in the election not count? Couldn’t the political scientist measure public opinion and run that against public policy? In America, for example, the President gets about 30 percent of the eligible vote (half don’t vote, and he wins by about half of that). Is that a mandate?

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