An Economic Theory of Democracy Revisited - Downs with Traction

11 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 29, 2008


Anthony Downs assumed no false information, and no irrationality. Neither of these assumptions is realistic in politics. Adam Smith recognised the role of rhetoric (deliberative eloquence) in political debate. Modern approaches to political processes, agenda setting and discourse analysis also emphasise persuasion. This paper begins by outlining logic and rhetoric as means of proof and persuasion. In section two the case is made that economics takes a logic-based view of society, whereas rhetoric is central to policy debate. Section three discusses the implications of a relaxation of Downs' assumptions to allow for a rhetoric-based view, with alternative propositions being suggested. Section four then considers the implications of these propositions for policy processes and outcomes in a democracy.

Keywords: Downs, traction, rhetoric, democracy

JEL Classification: A12, D72

Suggested Citation

Birks, K. Stuart, An Economic Theory of Democracy Revisited - Downs with Traction (August 29, 2008). Available at SSRN: or
No contact information is available for K. Stuart Birks

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