Why Do Political Parties Form?

Left: Professor                               Center: Student                               Right: Gadfly

  1. Hello class,
  2. Someone tell me something,
  3. About political parties.
  4. There were no political parties,
  5. In America’s first presidential election.
  6. There are copious amounts of evidence to suggest;
  7. The people choosing the President disdain partisanship.
  8. Turn your attention to Aldrich:
  9.    Why Parties? A Second Look.[1]
  10. After the signing of the constitution,
  11.    The elites soon desired durable solutions.
  12.    As groups of men agreed,
  13.       Partisan institutions became the means.
  14.    As groups of men engaged competition,
  15.       The Savior of the Union shall be won!
  16.    As different interests composed different factions,
  17.       Different parties formed.
  18.    As uncovered incentives are found by ambitious politicians,
  19.       Politicians to that incentive party are drawn.
  20. Some assume that parties are convenient coalitions,
  21.    What is common are shared preferences.
  22. One with her hypothesis composed argued:
  23. All are disparate groups.
  24. “Parties-in-government are also institutions
  25.    With rules and procedures for selecting leaders,
  26.        Providing them with powers and resources,
  27.            And structuring Congress and government…
  28.    …the incentives are for creating or affiliating
  29.            With institutional parties in addition
  30.                 To any sharing of preferences”;[2]
  31.                      Says Aldrich.
  32. Kroar took the stage:
  33. A collective action problem is undertaken,
  34. When people decide to do something about,
  35. Public good benefits.
  36. Imagine three parties from three regions,
  37. And the regional differences are salient.
  38. Each will submit a bill to the national government,
  39. To better the nation’s internal / external development.
  40. But passing all three bills would overtax each region,
  41. Particularly when the others’ solutions are of little consequence,
  42. To the residents of that one particular region.
  43. Another broke through in a moment’s silence:
  44. Region A and Region B,
  45. Will collaborate to prefer only one,
  46. Of the three pieces of legislation.
  47. C will be despondent but continue; alas,
  48.    For the sake of the Union.
  49. Enter logrolling.
  50. We’re not quite ready for that.
  51. Kroar signaled:
  52. Defeating all bills is Pareto superior,
  53. Than passing all three;
  54. Knows the legislators.
  55. Yet each has an incentive to pass their own,
  56. And very likely another’s too.
  57. Thus they will keep passing laws upon the people,
  58. Seemingly bad actors—acting like fools.
  59. Yes! The problem of collective action: defined!
  60.    Rational behavior, in equilibrium, appears wise;
  61.       But it leads to Pareto inferior actions, at times!
  62. A new student inserted:
  63. Rational, independent action may certainly not install,
  64. A Pareto superior outcome for all.
  65. In a republican government, the decisions are open,
  66.    In the United States, for example, see Roll Call.
  67. In a liberal government, the economic decisions,
  68.    Reflect the public goods needing to be solved;
  69.       Leave alone the private sector’s cause!
  70. A graduate student,
  71. Active in blogging,
  72. Was prudent yet bold:
  73. The entire public pays for the public good;
  74. Like a lighthouse. Or the Army.
  75. These goods are nonexcludable; meaning,
  76. Protect one. Protect all.
  77. And could any one person in the room,
  78.    Cover the costs of the former public goods?
  79. Heads moved from side to side.
  80. And in democracies; therefore,
  81.    Governments duly act collectively,
  82.    Like elections to choose representatives, who:
  83.         Enact legislation for their electorate,
  84.              Which affects all partisans too.
  85. This libertarian was troubled,
  86. By the private sector manipulation,
  87. Via the government.
  88. But farm subsidies help some farmers and distort the market.
  89. Allocating money for a bridge or a fighter jet,
  90. Means hiring contractors,
  91. From the private sector.
  92. The professor paused:
  93. Regardless,
  94.   Collective action is required to solve,
  95.      These public good conundrums.
  96.   Thus political parties produce goods that are public,
  97.      For all.
  98. Aldrich proposes two forms or lessons,
  99. To work out collective action problems.
  100. Game theory: like the prisoner’s dilemma.
  101. And the theory of individual decision making; e.g.,
  102. The expected utility model within,
  103. The calculus of voting.
  104. We’re not quite at logrolling yet.
  105. First let’s recall “folk theorem”
  106.    Because we don’t know who to recognize,
  107.        For the intellectual cognition.
  108.    For the competitive outcome transcends,
  109.        In a way whereas behavioral equilibrium,
  110.            Appears to mimic the prisoner’s dilemma, and,
  111.                Every outcome also yields the apple-like defection.
  112.                Everything is a possible equilibrium outcome.
  113. Thus the formation of institutions.
  114. Institutions help clarify which outcomes,
  115. Will advocate legitimate equilibriums.
  116. The social chair,
  117.  Of the graduate student organization,
  118. Crafted:
  119. No wants to be the sucker, so,
  120. A priori agreement mandates,
  121. Binding commitment.
  122. Institutions may be this mechanism.
  123. No one was sure about that.
  124. To solve collective action problems,
  125.    Legislators may, ex ante, form a super coalition,
  126.        Guaranteeing the coalition’s commitment.
  127.    Or the “long” and narrow coalition(s) could win,
  128.        Whereas two groups collaborate,
  129.             To only pass legislation in their interests.[3]
  130. Now under Weingast’s universal theorem (1979),
  131.    Substantive legislation passes when everyone gets,
  132.        Their pet projects for their district.
  133. Thus the incentive for a party to form:
  134. To win more!
  135. Logrolling has come home!
  136. Distributive politics will naturally organize,
  137.    Political parties.
  138. And being on the winning team and thus winning:
  139.    High payoffs; indeed, we see an ex ante
  140.       A binding coalition: A political party.
  141. Even though it is possible for new,
  142. Coalitions to form for every original,
  143. Piece of legislation to be approved;
  144. Long-term costs are reduced,
  145. When few parties are like glue.
  146. There are social choice problems in policymaking.
  147.    Social choice theory reflects Arrow’s theorem:
  148.        There is the paradox of voting. For instance,
  149.        Three alternatives: i.e., a bill, an amendment, and nothing,
  150.           Meet round-robin majority rule; whereas, each legislator,
  151.           Votes for the alternative according to self interest. Then,
  152.                You may very well see a voting cycle in existence.
  153.        Transitivity, or a preferred outcome, does not exist.
  154. So the same preferences which reveal
  155. A collective action problem, also,
  156. Reveal a social choice problem.
  157. What an ordeal!
  158. Now, Arrow’s general possibility theorem is as it sounds.
  159.    Voting cycles must not always, or even ever, be found.
  160. Perhaps the political scientist should,
  161. Rule them out.
  162. Yes. Legislators prefer transitivity to cycles.
  163.    But, there is no method established yet,
  164.       For noncyclical social preferences,
  165.           To arise from noncyclical individual preferences.
  166.              Do not forget.
  167. So voting theory is really about,
  168. How preferences determine choices.
  169. Comparing alternatives.
  170. Preferring an alternative.
  171. Thus we study voting behavior.
  172. Yes. Voting behavior in equilibrium.
  173.    That is the big question.
  174. Now, there are two general paths,
  175.    That researchers have experience in,
  176.         Discovering answers.
  177. First, some find positive results.
  178.    Find the conditions which yield,
  179.      Society’s decision as behavioral equilibrium.
  180.    For example, Black’s famous median voter theorem:
  181.       If voter’s preferences are indeed single-peeked, and,
  182.         In one dimension, then,
  183.         In that analysis does exist,
  184.             Behavioral equilibrium.
  185. Therefore, the ideal point of the median voter,
  186. Is in fact the equilibrium.
  187. Black proved this via a study of communities.
  188. Downs proved this via the electorate.
  189. Shepsle (1979) used it for the legislative committee system.
  190. Kramer (1973) shows that deviation from,
  191. Unidimensionality,
  192. Causes equilibrium to violently tremble.
  193. Plott (1967) illuminates multidimensional spaces,
  194.    Via a multivariate median.
  195. Davis, Hinich, and Ordeshook (1970)[4]
  196. Affirmed that the Downsian,
  197. Spatial model in multiple dimensions,
  198. Required symmetry conditions,
  199. To reveal a behavioral equilibrium.
  200. The second research path is negative:
  201.     Unidimensionality is not what you observe.
  202.     Symmetry of preferences are not plausible.
  203.     Begin with the premise that there does not exist,
  204.         Behavioral equilibrium.
  205.     Discovering Plott means discovering disequilibrium!
  206.     There is no core! There is no pareto movement,
  207.         To win another optimal score!
  208. Enter chaos theorems.[5]
  209. Without voter equilibrium,
  210. Alternatives could seem to be,
  211. Chosen at random.
  212. McKelvey said that this laid the space,
  213.    For institutional effects and agenda setting games.
  214. And Riker called out the analysis,
  215. As proof that politics is dismal science.
  217. This leads us to Shepsle and Weingast.
  218. New institutionalism becomes the design,
  219.    For equilibriums to arise from a combination,
  220.      Of preferences amidst institutional arrangements.
  221. ‘Tis called structure-induced equilibriums (SIEs).
  222. Yes. Preference-induced equilibriums (PIEs),
  223.    Do not seem to exist.
  224. But even within the negative school,
  225. The answers provided a general witness to,
  226. The positivists’ median voter theorem:
  227. For convergence to the policy center.
  228. Let’s stay focused on today’s agenda:
  229.    Why parties form.
  230. First, rational legislators choose through two
  231.    Behavioral rules.
  232. Either sincere or sophisticated voting is used.
  233. When a legislator votes from what s/he prefers,
  234.    Then voting is sincere.
  235. When a legislator examines the future consequences,
  236.    Considering all the possible outcomes,
  237.        Then sophisticated voting appears dominant.
  238. For sophisticated voting to develop,
  239. The legislator must understand,
  240. How the others will vote,
  241. Once given the chance.
  242. Under sincere voting, the status quo always wins,
  243.    Since the winner is the last to enter the voting competition.
  244. Under sophisticated voting, the status quo always loses,
  245.    Since the winner has already been chosen.
  246. Thus outcomes depend upon the order of voting,
  247.    At times called path dependence,
  248.        Because the agenda in action,
  249.           Determines the bill’s transaction.
  250. Political scientists find that the median voter;
  251. e.g., the median bill,
  252. Defeats the alternatives in pairwise voting [frill].
  253. ‘Tis called the Condorcet winner.
  254. ­
  255. Under PIE, Aldrich states,
  256.    “When there is a well-defined sense
  257.         Of what the majority prefers,
  258.             The majority will work its will.”[6]
  259. Of course, convergence to the center,
  260. Absent equilibrium.
  261. In fact, parties form,
  262. Because there are so many disagreements—
  263. Parties form because there does exist,
  264. Disequilibrium.
  265. Social choice theory expects no voting equilibrium,
  266.    Thus there are incentives to form long coalitions.
  267. Long coalition is another name for a political party;
  268.    One with legitimate recognition.
  269. In early American history, the Federalist and Jeffersonian
  270.    Political parties—tried to solve social choice problems.
  271.        These were parties-in government.
  272. When Jefferson [and later Jackson] was in the minority,
  273.    He sought to incorporate more like-minded voters,
  274.        Expanding and transforming his party—to a majority.
  275. Mobilizing the electorate,
  276. Means getting people to vote for a candidate.
  277. Figure out the science of that.
  278. Laughter all around.
  279. What if turnout is a problem of,
  280.    Individual decision making?
  281. So, unlike the prisoner’s dilemma,
  282.    Whereas the actors’ strategic interaction,
  283.         Is central to the immediate and direct outcome…
  284. But the game in multi-million citizen elections,
  285. Doesn’t quite have the same effect.
  286. Aldrich says, “Strategic interaction is so remote,
  287.    That it can be effectively ignored:
  288.    How one citizen decides to act
  289.       Has very little effect on the decisions of any others.”[7]
  290. The calculus of voting theory posits;
  291. Downsian expected utility maximization,
  292. In a horse race, individuals pick their winner.
  293. Yet what is the calculus to refrain from voting?
  294. R=PB + D – C
  295. The outcome desired is the public good.
  296.    This leaves room for democracy’s roots.
  297. R stands for Reward.
  298. P depicts the probability the vote
  299. Will make in deciding a tie.
  300. B stands for the differential benefit one gets
  301. From choosing the more preferred candidate
  302. D it for Duty!
  303. C stands for the costs of voting, including;
  304. Time and effort to register and
  305. The costs of decision making.
  306. Apply it to the other expected utility riddles;
  307.    Like the calculus of candidacy, and,
  308.        Participating in interest groups, and perhaps,
  309.            To a society that seeks to become civil.[8]
  310. And if P is zero,
  311. expect very, very low turnout.
  312. Of course, becoming informed is a serious hurdle.
  313. So research campaigns in light of these,
  314. Former two collective action… hurdles.
  315. Yes. Getting people informed, and, getting them to vote.
  316. If you are one day running a campaign,
  317.    You better quickly understand this game.
  318. Stealthy candidates change the terms of voting;
  319.    Engage mobilizations drives,
  320.    Lower information costs with effective symbols and signs,
  321.    Describe values and emphasize benefits,
  322.       For voters to decide.
  323. Candidate centered electoral adventures,
  324.    Often activates partisan pressures.
  325. Today’s erudite campaign manager must also account for,
  326.    The value and reputation of the parties,
  327.        In the race to capture office.
  328. Individual candidates are tied,
  329. Indeed, the reputation of an out-party,
  330.    In any given constituency,
  331.     Is weighed down by a losing theme.
  332. And if high profile partisans,
  333. Are caught defecting before an election;
  334. Well then, run any opposition candidate.
  335. Party matters. Hence parties form.
  336. Voters trust, through credible commitment,
  337.    That a candidate will not break into a radical fold.
  338. Of course I will need to be paid,
  339. An upper-middle class wage.
  340. That’s true, raising money is costly.
  341.    Especially when no one is paying dues.
  342. Right. But now we have SuperPacs!
  343. Only the rich need to contribute,
  344. To oil the campaign machine,
  345. And create every informational move.
  346. I think you can tell,
  347. Excited this class is, or,
  348. Under a spell.
  349. Now some of those rich people became rich,
  350.    Through being an entrepreneur.
  351. Perhaps, even, they represent a significant faction,
  352.     Of the voting population—going to the voting booth.
  353. I love pluralism too!?
  354. Now isn’t ambition theory,
  355. At the heart of politics?
  356. According to Schlesinger, ambition to keep public office,
  357.    Constrains and maintains a politician to stay honest,
  358.        To his or her campaign promises.
  359. Now recall the calculus of candidacy.[9]
  360.    An incumbent of the House would prefer,
  361.        To join the ranks of the Senators.
  362.    However, s/he would not like to be,
  363.        Left out in the cold—without money.
  364.    When the costs exceed the benefits of running,
  365.         Expect to see the candidate retiring.
  366. Schlesinger also found,
  367. That affiliating with a party,
  368. Is a necessary condition;
  369. To run for office,
  370. And for remaining undefeated.
  371. So I have now introduced you to the office-seeking model.
  372.    But more on that later in the semester.
  373. Back to why parties form.
  374. The probability of the election
  375. Depends on the expected choices
  376. By the electorate.
  377. Parties thus provide electoral resources.
  378.    They stamp the candidate with an identity,
  379.     And parties supply the supporter to fulfill;
  380.          Ambition’s destiny.
  381. When millions compose the electorate,
  382. One candidate needs economies of scale,
  383. To compete.
  384. The probability of election, accordingly,
  385.    Posits that a candidate is better off with a party,
  386.       Is better off with a major party than a minor party,
  387.           And that there shall be only two major parties.
  388. Duverger’s Law, indeed.
  389. The longest running American party: see Democrats;
  390.   Founded by Andrew Jackson:
  391.      Made the “B” in benefits the main attraction.
  392.         The party distributed spoils as jobs.
  393.         The party distributed spoils through legislation.
  394.   Party formation was a reason for voting—for Democrats.
  395. Yet we are concerned with “two parties”
  396. And the strategic action between those bodies.
  397. This is a very different inquiry than,
  398. The choice of an individual to vote,
  399. In a multi-million person electorate.
  400. Aldrich as tutor: “The two parties form a system
  401.    Because these two parties are durable in strategic interaction
  402.      And are expected to be so in the future.”[10]
  403. Presidential horse races are now,
  404. American political culture.
  405. So a system of parties is defined,
  406.    By the strategic interaction you find,
  407.        Over the course of elections through time.
  408. The voting public is a strategic actor,
  409. When denoted as an aggregate factor.
  410. Two parties clearly have an incentive,
  411.    To keep it a two-party system.
  412. Thus parties reduce political space,
  413. To one dimension in order to influence,
  414. The nature of the political debate,
  415. So that their power remains,
  416. Relatively stable.
  417. Constitutional rules define institutions.
  418.   What does the American Constitution,
  419.      Say about political parties?
  420. Absolutely nothing.
  421. So why do parties naturally form?
  422. Thank you professor,
  423. For the former answers.
  424. My pleasure.
  425. Now take the final minutes of class,
  426. To discuss possible research hypothesis.

[1] The rest of this poem is an analysis of: Aldrich. 2011. Why Parties?: A Second Look (Chicago Studies In American Politics). TheUniversity ofChicago Press. Most of the content is from Chapter 2: Why Parties Form.

[2] Page 28-29.

[3] Aldrich attributes these to Swartz. I would also like to relay that Aldrich goes into much more depth than I can poetically articulate.

[4] References are available in Aldrich’s book. The content I rearticulate is from page 38.

[5] McKelvey 1976, Schofield 1978, McKelvey and Schofield 1986.

[6] Page 42.

[7] Page 44.

[8] This last line is out of text. But it seems to me, as there are few models to predict revolution / civil disobedience calculus, that the former formula may apply to measuring discontent, and, the aggregate decision to change the system (i.e., people decide to vote or not vote—in many countries to day, see Arab Spring, many denizens decide to protest and demand a different type of regime.

[9] Rhode (1979) and Black (1972).

[10] Page 57.


4 thoughts on “Why Do Political Parties Form?

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