Representative Government and Environmental Management

By Edwin T. Haefele | Go to book overview

Appendix B Coalitions, Minority Representation, and Vote-Trading Probabilities

Although there is disagreement on the normative attributes of vote trading in legislative bodies (is logrolling good or bad?), there is little doubt that it exists as one of the ways by which the political process reduces conflict and takes account of intensities of minority preferences. The existence of coalitions of minorities was posited by Madison (in The Federalist, Paper no. 10) as fact and value. His argument runs along the negative side, i.e., that no tyranny of the majority can exist in the Republic because of the lack of one majority on all issues. He neglected (for good reasons) the obverse side of the coin-minorities can band together to pass legislation as well as to defeat legislation. Americans have made good use of vote trading both to pass and to defeat legislation ever since.

There has been no systematic attempt to relate the possibility of vote trading to different coalition patterns, however, perhaps because the task is tedious and the theoretical significance (after Madison) was unrecognized until recently.1 The advent of the computer has reduced the tedium of the

____________________
Reprinted with minor revision by permission from Public Choice, Spring 1970 ( Blacksburg, Va.: Center for Study of Public Choice, Virginia Polytechnic Institute).
1
For a general statement, see James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy ( Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962). For the analogy between vote trading and an economic market, see James S. Coleman, "The Possibility of a Social Welfare Function," American Economic Review 56 ( December 1966): 1105-22.

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