The Economics of Politics and the Arguments Against the Political Pendulum

The political pendulum is a subject that is generally accepted amongst historians and political scientists; it is to my belief, however, that such terminology can be confusing and also somewhat misleading.
A pendulum seems to suggest an equilibrium. For those that have studied physics know that a pendulum can be graphically/mathematically represented by a sine curve.
Political Pendulum
Where, p* represents the equilibrium point. It is the theoretical moderate point of view that society tends to fluctuate around.
Political Pendulum w: Approx
If we make a linear approximation of the following (represented by the dotted red line), we can make the conclusion that in the long run, there are no changes to society’s political preferences.

However, contrary to the static universe that is perceived, scientific and philosophical data seems to prove other wise. The universe, for example, is one that will continue to expand as opposed to expanding than contracting (which a “static-ist” may suggest). Hegel’s dialectic does not suggest an “unresolvebility” of conflicting ideals, but rather suggests that conflicting ideals can give birth to new ideas that transcend the previous. Progress is a result of conflict.

Hegelian Dialectic
It is important to note that a linear approximation of the Hegelian view suggests a dynamic long run, as opposed to a static one. Many of us in the field of economics will recognize and interpret this function as the business cycle. An economy expands in the long run (the dotted red line), but it is a tendency of all things in the world to fluctuate while doing so.
The political ideals of a society, I thus argue, is more a factor of dialectics. It is not a pendulum. Yes, in some sense it is cyclical, but it is not static as a pendulum would seem to suggest.

Political Dialectic
The Short Run Poltical (SRP) Curve is derived straight from the Hegelian dialectic/business cycle. It is important to note p*, the “theoretical” moderate point of view that society fluctuates around, is no longer constant but changing. In the long run (LRP), society tends toward some sort of progress (which I argue is liberal). I say liberal not to denote democrat vs. republican, but I use it loosely, rather to denote greater distribution of power (via the enlightenment ideals).

However politics is not just about political ideals, as it is about political parties. The distribution of votes/power amongst political parties can indeed be a “pendulum” if political parties can adjust accordingly.
Pendulum of Political Parties
If there were to be such a pendulum between parties, there must be long run “static-ity”. Meaning that votes in the long run (v*) fluctuate around a certain vote count. For this to be true the following must be true:
where ∆PP denotes the change in party policy. If p*, the “theoretical” political ideal in which society fluctuates around is not constant, then the parties must change accordingly to keep the powers between the parties (v*) constant.

Yet, to believe that parties are perfectly “liquifiable” is a far fetched premise in itself. Like wages, party policies are sticky because there are administrative barriers in changing them. Thus, ∆PP < ∆p* such that:

Sticky Party Policies

If changes in party policy are slower than the changes in society’s political ideals than the distribution of power amongst the parties in a democratic system will change. It is important to note that v* the distribution of power between the parties will be a function of the difference between societal (p*) and party ideals (PP).
If the following points:

  • All parties are equally sticky
  • p* and ∆PP are in the same direction

apply, then we will end up with a dialectic representation of the distribution of power between the two parties.

Dialectic of Politial PArties

where SRV represents the short run distribution of votes/power.

It is important to note that there are several economic assumptions that are being made in this argument which I should point out:

  • Individuals, and thus society, are rational
    • They will vote for the party that represents their political ideals
  • There are no rigs to the democratic system

“Nothing is truly static in a dynamic universe”.

-Kai Matsuda


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