A walk down the middle lane of the Median Voter Theorem’s Origins

Dresselhaus, Erika Magret
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Now more than ever in recent history, the behaviour of politicians around the world have aroused significant interest. Events such as the Brexit turmoil, the rising trend of right-wing parties (despite the events of World War II), the election of a non-career politician such as Donald Trump, etc., all transpired in perceived democratic voting systems. It thus become clear, that political decision making cannot be ignored in economic theorems and models. The median voter theorem is a popularly used framework in public economics to analyse behavioural decisions made by two political parties within a democratic electoral system. According to the median voter theorem, the primary objective of the two political parties is to win the elections by maximising their popularity. The parties do so by adopting the preferences of the median voter. This research essay will explore the origins of the median voter theorem to determine why exactly the median voter is so pivotal and why the demand for public sector output reflects that of the median voter. It will further discuss the assumptions, discoveries and implications made by the two significant contribution authors Duncan Black and Anthony Downs. The consequent discussion of the empirical robustness of the median voter theorem reveals that the assumptions made are too restrictive and have no empirical basis. The model should, however, not be fully discarded. The model can fulfil a function equivalent to perfect competition in the market. The relevance of this research essay is the recognition to treat political agents as behavioural entities who may not always behave rationally, especially in a world of imperfect information
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Commerce (Economics) to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2021