Anthony Downs wrote this elegant analysis in 1957, which in my opinion remains a groundbreaking idea and is probably the best scientific paper I have read in years. Did I mention, its still very relevant to our times.
In it he says that a democracy is a political system with 2 or more parties. Within it, the parties act like enterpreneurs competing for votes rather than money. They sell their policies and therefore their policies are developed strictly with the aim to gain votes. Any social responsibility they have is secondary to this primary goal. Within a party individuals seek out personal gains (money, power, prestige…) by leveraging the position their party is in.
Governments make decisions differently in a world with imperfect information than they would in a world with perfect information. Lack of complete information upon which to vote is a given in human societies. Consequences of imperfect information are profound:
It means that since any given citizen can not know everything they need to know about the political system, some individuals are more important than others due to their special knowledge. Similarly, since the government itself is ignorant of what all that its citizens want, it must therefore send out representatives to citizens. This in turn turns a democracy into a representative government. It also means that it must develop specialists in specific items of information who then know disproportionately more than others and inform the government about these things. They can also lobby the government to make certain decisions over others, thereby acting as specialists in their areas of expertise. Their expertise makes them lobbyists and lobbyists therefore are intermediaries between the citizens and the government and can leverage their position for personal gains. In the same way, lack of perfect knowledge means that citizens must buy this information (or gain access to this information), thereby making a government party is susceptible to bribery to promote special interests.
It amazes me that Downs wrote this around 55 years ago and this analysis (and more to come in upcoming blogs) does not form the basis of more in depth analysis of the decisions we all live in.