The Investment Theory of Party Competition

even more relevant today

Policy Tensor


In 1957, Anthony Downs published “An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy” in the Journal of Political Economy. In that paper he laid out what came to be called the Downsian model of political competition. According to this model, political entrepreneurs seeking office position themselves in the spectrum of policy in order to appeal to a sufficiently large set of voters so as to win the election. The central result of this theory is the Median Voter Theorem: policies of a democratic state will reflect the preferences of the median voter. This is usually formulated in terms of the provision of a given public good. Voter preferences are expected to be normally distributed around a median value. Political parties competing for votes will therefore converge to the median value.

There are obviously many small bore critiques one can immediately level at the Downsian model. Voter preferences are unlikely…

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