Public choice in political markets: The absence of quid pro quo

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Public choice analysts argue that, while incentive mechanisms in competitive markets ensure consumer sovereignty, decisions in political processes conflict with voters' preferences. Voters are vulnerable because they are rationally apathetic. Yet, if this is so, how can high participation rates be explained? Evidence reveals that, in the absence of effective quid pro quo, behaviour differs systematically from that predicted of homo economicus. Here it is argued that, while participation cannot be explained in terms of an instrumental act (to affect outcome), it can be explained in terms of individuals' perceptions of the intrinsic value of the process itself. It follows that inherent mechanisms within representative democracy are capable of mitigating the more 'dismal' predictions of public choice analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-93
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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