An Economic Analysis of Democracy

By Randall G. Holcombe | Go to book overview

2 / The Origins of Democracy

The ideals of democratic government were widely known before they were widely practiced. Historically, democracy can trace its origins back to ancient Greece, where Greek democracy was at its height in the fifth century B.C., before the Peloponnesian War.1 Had the classical Greek democracy survived, that would have provided strong evidence about the superiority of democratic political institutions--superiority in a Darwinian sense, at least. But it did not, and several observers of democracy have suggested that democracy may sow the seeds of its own destruction.2 Whether true or not, this view has the virtue of presenting democracy as a dynamic, rather than static, form of government. In a static sense, one might examine a democracy at some point in time to try to understand its operation, but equally important is the examination of the way in which a democracy evolves over time.

The purpose of' this chapter is to analyze the origin and evolution of democratic government, but from a theoretical, rather than historical, perspective. Two types of models might be devised. In the first, which might be called the British model, a country is ruled by a dictator (or king), who is unable to maintain dictatorial control. As the balance of power shifts away from the dictator, the dictator may be able to prevent being overthrown by establishing some democratic institutions whereby the dictator agrees to share some power with a democratically elected parliament in exchange for being able to retain office. In

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An Economic Analysis of Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Origins of Democracy 15
  • 3 - The Median Voter 38
  • 4 - Coalitions and Stability In Multidimensional Issues 67
  • 5 - Taxes and Redistribution 95
  • 6 - Distributive Government 118
  • 7 - Interest Groups And Distributional Activity 143
  • 8 - The Government Budget Constraint 162
  • 9 - Cycles, Stability, And Economic Efficiency 186
  • 10 - The Growth of Government 208
  • Notes Bibliography Index 231
  • Notes 233
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 267
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