Is Voting Rational or Instrumental?

with Gary S. Becker


Abstract

A fully rational choice approach to politics does not closely resemble modern models of voting behavior that purport to be applications of the economistís analysis of rationality to the political sector. For these models do not build voting choices on the fragility of preferences about how to vote, which we show to be a basic implication of the voterís paradox.

Building a simple model on the fragility of preferences about how to vote delivers an number of different and realistic implications for the demand for public policies and political candidates, the supply of public policies and political candidates, and, ultimately, the determinants of public policy. The model explains why so many studies have found voters not voting in their (narrowing defined) self-interest, why minorities are not exploited under majoritarian voting, why interest groups have an important influence on public policy, why public decisions are so weakly correlated with voting rules, and why conformity is more common in political than private life.


© copyright 1999 by Gary S. Becker and Casey B. Mulligan.