The implications of using models of direct democracy for cases of representative democracy
Ragan, Robert Andrew
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Representative democracy translates the preferences of the electorate into policy out-comes. Individual voters do not directly vote on policy; rather, their elected representatives create and establish policy. How well does representative democracy translate the preferences of the electorate into policy? Is there any systematic bias in a representative democracy system? I examine the policy implications of a representative democracy system itself absent these other effects. To explore this question, I have formulated a series of computational models that calculate policy outcomes of both a direct democracy and a representative democracy system. The results allow me to isolate any systematic deviation between the two systems. I find that there are two main factors that cause the policy outcomes of a representative democracy system to deviate from direct democracy outcomes. The first is the distribution of preferences across the general population of voters. The second is the degree to which legislative districts are “gerrymandered”. When population preferences are normally distributed and there is little gerrymandering of districts, there is little difference between the policies predicted under representative democracy and direct democracy. How- ever, when the preferences in the population are calibrated using the distribution of income in the U.S. and a moderate degree of gerrymandering is allowed then the representative and direct democracy outcomes diverge substantially.