The state must expend resources to credibly threaten the use of force, and the actual use of force is more costly than just exercising the threat. A population that views itself as prey to a predatory state will resist the state’s demands and will not produce much that the state can appropriate. The predatory state will be more successful if it can convince its citizens that the state’s activities are in the public interest, which will enhance voluntary compliance with the state’s mandates and lessen the need for the state to invest resources in overt coercion. The ideology of “Progressive Democracy” encourages citizens to cooperate with the state, and legitimizes the state’s predatory activities. The ideology of Progressivism justifies the imposition of costs on some for the benefit of others. The ideology of democracy implies that when a democratic government does this, it is acting in the public interest.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Locke’s idea was quite literally revolutionary, according to Bailyn (1967), who explains that pamphleteers who agitated for the American Revolution in 1776 made frequent reference to Locke’s ideas to support their cause. Bailyn says that while most Americans at the time probably did not read Locke, they would have been familiar with Locke’s name because of those pamphleteers.
Survey data for this and other questions in the World Values Survey are found at www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSOnline.jsp, accessed December 27, 2018. The responses cited here are from Wave 6, the most recent one available, which questioned those surveyed from 2010 to 2016.
Holcombe (2002) explains this idea in more detail, examining the constitutional history of the United States. Things are less clear-cut in European democracies that do not have the same explicit founding documents. Congleton (2011) gives a good discussion of the evolution of constitutional ideas and liberal democracy in European governments.
While this is a translation from the French original, it is interesting to note that it refers to people as a singular rather than plural concept, further reinforcing Rousseau’s idea that a general will exists that encompasses all citizens.
Buchanan (1975, pp. 175–176) does criticize Rawls for speculating on the outcomes that would emerge from the process Rawls recommends.
As previously noted, Buchanan and Tullock (1962, ch. 6) refer to this as expected external costs.
A few members of the economic elite can offer sufficient funds to parties and candidates such that their political actions can make a difference. It is interesting to see the way in which the political elite objects to this conclusion, arguing that the influence of money on politics is pernicious, even as they devote much of their own time to fund-raising. Politicians argue that citizens should become more engaged in the political process, because they realize that higher voter turnout legitimizes their political power, but when citizens who actually can make a difference get involved, those same politicians object strenuously to their engagement. Note, however, that if the members of the economic elite donate to their political campaigns, the donations are readily accepted.
Anderson, T. L., & Hill, P. J. (1980). The birth of a transfer society. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.
Bailyn, B. (1967). The ideological origins of the American revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bartels, L. M. (2008). Unequal democracy: The political economy of the new gilded age. New York, Princeton: Russell Sage Foundation; Princeton University Press.
Beard, C. (1913). An economic interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. New York: Macmillan.
Black, D. (1958). The theory of committees and elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brennan, G., & Lomasky, L. (1997). Democracy and decision: The pure theory of electoral preference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Buchanan, J. M. (1962). The relevance of Pareto optimality. Journal of Conflict Resolution,6(4), 341–354.
Buchanan, J. M. (1975). The limits of liberty: Between anarchy and Leviathan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Buchanan, J. M., & Tullock, G. (1962). The calculus of consent: Logical foundations of constitutional democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Caplan, B. (2007). The myth of the rational voter: Why democracies choose bad public policies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Congleton, R. D. (2011). Perfecting parliament: Constitutional reform, liberalism, and the rise of Western democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper & Row.
Edelman, M. (1964). The symbolic uses of politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Friedman, D. (1989). The machinery of freedom: A guide to radical capitalism (2nd ed.). La Salle, IL: Open Court Press.
Gilens, M. (2012). Affluence and influence: Economic inequality and political power in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press.
Hacker, J. S., & Pierson, P. (2010). Winner-take-all politics: How Washington made the rich richer—and turned its back on the middle class. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hobbes, T. ( 1950). Leviathan. New York: E.P. Dutton.
Hochman, H. M., & Rodgers, J. D. (1969). Pareto optimal redistribution. American Economic Review,59(4), 542–557.
Holcombe, R. G. (1994). The economic foundations of government. New York: New York University Press.
Holcombe, R. G. (2002). From liberty to democracy: The transformation of American government. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Holcombe, R. G. (2018). Political capitalism: How economic and political power is made and maintained. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kolko, G. (1963). The triumph of conservatism: A reinterpretation of American history, 1900–1916. New York: The Free Press.
Krueger, A. O. (1974). The political economy of the rent-seeking society. American Economic Review,64, 291–303.
Leeson, P. T. (2012). Ordeals. Journal of Law and Economics,55(3), 691–714.
Leeson, P. T. (2013a). Vermin trials. Journal of Law and Economics,56(3), 811–836.
Leeson, P. T. (2013b). “God Damn”: The law and economics of monastic malediction. Journal of Law Economics and Organization,30(1), 193–216.
Leeson, P. T. (2013c). Gypsy law. Public Choice,155(3/4), 273–292.
Leeson, P. T. (2014). Oracles. Rationality and Society,26(2), 141–169.
Leeson, P. T., & Coyne, C. J. (2012). Sassywood. Journal of Comparative Economics,40(4), 608–620.
Levi, M. (1988). Of rule and revenue. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Locke, J. ( 1967). Two treatises of government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McCloskey, D. N. (2006). The bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an age of commerce. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
North, D. C. (1981). Structure and change in economic history. New York: W.W. Norton.
Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Olson, M. (1982). The rise and decline of nations. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Olson, M. (2000). Power and prosperity: Outgrowing communist and capitalist dictatorships. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pinker, S. (2018). Enlightenment now: The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress. New York: Viking.
Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Belknap: Cambridge, MA.
Rothbard, M. N. (1973). For a new liberty. New York: Macmillan.
Rousseau, J. J. (1762). The social contract, or principles of political right (G. D. H. Cole, Trans.). www.constitution.org/jjr/socon.htm.
Stigler, G. J. (1971). The theory of economic regulation. Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science,2(1), 3–21.
Stigler, G. J., & Becker, G. S. (1977). De gustibus non est disputandum. American Economic Review,67(2), 76–90.
Stiglitz, J. E. (2012). The price of inequality: How today’s divided society endangers the future. New York: W.W. Norton.
Tullock, G. (1967). The welfare cost of tariffs, monopolies, and theft. Western Economic Journal,5, 224–232.
Tullock, G. (1971). The charity of the uncharitable. Economic Inquiry,9(4), 379–392.
Tullock, G. (1983). Economics of income redistribution. Boston, MA: Kluwer-Nijhoff.
Usher, D. (1992). The welfare economics of markets, voting, and predation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Wittman, D. A. (1989). Why democracies produce efficient results. Journal of Political Economy,97(6), 1395–1424.
Wittman, D. A. (1995). The myth of democratic failure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Yeager, L. B. (1985). Rights, contract, and utility in policy espousal. Cato Journal,5(1), 259–294.
Yeager, L. B. (2001). Ethics as a social science: The moral philosophy of social cooperation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Holcombe, R.G. Progressive Democracy: the ideology of the modern predatory state. Public Choice 182, 287–301 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-019-00637-z
- Predatory state
- Political ideology
- Politics as exchange