Great stuff, Anthony Downs An Economic Theory of Democracy, summary from wikipedia:
Here is a list of the key propositions Downs attempts to prove in chapter eight:
- A two-party democracy cannot provide stable and effective government unless there is a large measure of ideological consensus among its citizens.
- Parties in a two-party system deliberately change their platforms so that they resemble one another; whereas parties in a multi-party system try to remain as ideologically distinct from each other as possible.
- If the distribution of ideologies in a society’s citizenry remains constant, its political system will move toward a position of equilibrium in which the number of parties and their ideological positions are stable over time.
- New parties can be most successfully launched immediately after some significant change in the distribution of ideological views among eligible voters.
- In a two-party system, it is rational for each party to encourage voters to be irrational by making its platform vague and ambiguous.
The conditions under which his theory prevails are outlined in chapter two. Many of these conditions have been challenged by later scholarship. In anticipation of such criticism, Downs quotes Milton Friedman in chapter two that: “Theoretical models should be tested primarily by the accuracy of their predictions rather than by the reality of their assumptions”
Here’s a rare occasion when I agree with Milton Friedman, and would add that Downs model from 1958 has weathered fairly well as a predictive framework.