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The Myth Of Democratic Efficiency Essay

1893 words - 8 pages

It has been the dominant view among economists that democratic political market is unable to produce the efficient results of an efficient economic market because of uniformed voters, lack of competition, and misallocated political rights. In his article “Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results,” Donald Wittman denies this belief, arguing that both the political and economic markets work well. He claims that the democratic political market is a highly competitive system designed to produce wealth-maximizing outcomes and incentivizes politicians to act efficiently (Wittman 1395-1396). Because Wittman is challenging the conventional beliefs of economists, he places the burden of proof falls on those who argue for the efficiency of political markets. Before defending democratic efficiency, he sets forth three characteristics typically associated with an efficient economic market: 1) informed and rational participants, 2) in competitive setting, 3) with well-defined and easily transferable property rights (1396). Most models of political failure assume that the market always lacks one or more of these characteristics, Wittman argues that the political market typically does have these characteristics by comparing it to an efficient market economy. Although Wittman presents a strong case for democratic efficiency, his arguments ultimately fail.
Wittman claims that voters participating in the political market are more informed and rational than previously thought. Prior economists have argued that voters are rationally uninformed because the cost of gathering information outweighs the benefit of obtaining that information. This theory assumes that a majority of the information gathering cost falls on the voter. However, Wittman provides three ways in which the voter is alleviated of these costs. First, candidates take on the cost of information gathering and distribution because it could benefit their campaign. In an efficient market economy, this process would take the form of an entrepreneur benefitting from new product development (Wittman 1400). Second, the reputation garnered by political parties lowers the information gathering costs to voters (1400). The voter is able to cast an informed vote by examining an issue on a one-dimensional continuum, voting for the candidate who best fits their preferences according to the reputation of the party in which they belong (Hotelling 45). Third, the voter is able to seek voting advice from groups with similar preferences (Wittman 1401). Although the full cost might not fall on the voter, economists have argued that any information they receive would come from biases sources and would, therefore, be biased. Wittman argues that the information bias problem has been overstated because voter rationality. Voters are aware that certain sources tend to over state information and will discount their claims accordingly, avoiding misinformation that could occur (1401).
Although logically sound, Wittman’s...

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