Impact of money raising considerations on campaign rhetoric

The virtue-based justification of electoralism implies an indirect connection between public opinion and policy. According to this justification, the public identifies people it trusts and puts them in office. Those people then determine policy as they see fit. According to this theory, then, the connection between policy and popular opinion is mediated by character judgments.

The rewards-based justification, on the other hand, implies a direct connection: elected officials wish to please the public in order to be re-elected and thus pursue policy that matches public opinion (in the sense that if they pursue policy X, then there exists no alternative policy which would win higher approval ratings).

The rewards-based theory suffers from two fundamental defects:

  1. It ignores the epistemic difficulties facing voters. In reality voters’ ability to determine the effects of government policy is very limited. They are therefore unable to tell whether government policy matches their world view and promotes their interests.
  2. It assumes that politicians lack policy preferences of their own. The theory assumes that politicians want to be elected simply and solely for pleasure of being in office rather than to promote any specific policy.

Those defects indicate why the rewards-based theory cannot be expected to explain policy setting by elected government. However, those defects do not apply to the rewards-based theory in the limited context of campaign rhetoric. Continue reading