Political Parties: Insights from a Tri-Planar Model of Political Economy

28 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2015 Last revised: 4 Apr 2017

See all articles by David J. Hebert

David J. Hebert

Aquinas College

Richard E. Wagner

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: February 2017


What is the place of political parties within a democratic system of political economy? Parties are often described as intermediaries that lubricate the political process by facilitating the matching of voter preferences with candidate positions. This line of analysis flows from a bi-planar model of the political process where politicians appeal directly to voters. In this paper, we examine how construction of a meso level of analysis that lies between micro and macro levels might influence the relationship between candidates and voters. This meso level interjects such organizations as political parties between candidates and voters, with those organizations comprising interest groups within a democratic process, as against serving simply as neutral intermediaries. In this case, political parties can exert substantive effects on democratic outcomes as they take on characteristics of interest groups, bringing to mind Robert Michels (1915) analysis of the unavoidably oligopolistic nature of democratic political organization.

Keywords: political parties as interest groups; common vs. specialized knowledge; agenda manipulation; divided knowledge; non-logical action; ideology; Vilfredo Pareto; Friedrich Hayek

JEL Classification: D23, D72, D83, P16

Suggested Citation

Hebert, David J. and Wagner, Richard E., Political Parties: Insights from a Tri-Planar Model of Political Economy (February 2017). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 15-23, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2574445 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2574445

David J. Hebert

Aquinas College ( email )

Nashville, TN
United States

Richard E. Wagner (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
334 Enterprise Hall
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
(703) 993-1132 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~rwagner/

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ppe.mercatus.org/scholars/richard-wagner

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