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While this aspect in itself does not so much constitute a tyranny of wealth, since it does not enable the rich to politically dominate the poor, it does constitute a substantial bonus for the wealthy. In contrast, the rich can both buy vote packages still relatively cheaply to them and sell their votes in which case they make more money than the poor do.

One can illustrate this problem in another way. Conversely, one would need a group of 11 poor people spending nearly all their wealth to acquire the opportunity for such political influence. The tyranny of wealth objection clearly returns in full force.

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To make matters worse, the Package Condition can lead to package prices that can turn out to be even more harmful to the poor. Another implementation problem arises as well. If we were to set class boundaries differently and add more classes, this would result in a larger single vote package and higher prices.

Next to the arbitrary character of all this, it in effect imposes further obstacles for the poor to buy votes. One is that private citizens or companies are not allowed to enter the vote market as buyers. Such a Political Parties Only Condition is needed to avoid the scenario where the rich can easily outbid the poor even if the latter coordinate efforts Levmore , pp.

The restriction to political parties, understood as citizens forming political platforms, however, is not enough. After all, the rich can create such platforms much more easily than the poor. The Equal Budget Condition does not help much here. Taylor c , p. Given that these parties have to provide some non-monetary reason for the poor to sell them their votes, they have to appeal to the political views of the poor, which are thus guaranteed political representation. However, this solution is not enough to stave off the tyranny of wealth objection.

Now assume that two political parties represent competing interests of the rich call them Conservatives and Liberals and one party represents the interests of the poor call them Socialists. Suppose that both the Conservatives and the Liberals have a large amount of money to buy vote packages but the Socialists do not. In fact, this scenario is more than a mere theoretical possibility, as it is the parties that represent the interests of the rich that would be most likely to attract wealthy donors. Again, the poor would likely be politically dominated by the rich here, since the poor who value the money more than their vote can only sell to the Conservatives or the Liberals.

Such a vote market therefore incentivises poor sellers, in contrast to rich sellers, to go against their interests. Again, the interests of the rich are likely to politically dominate the poor, which would constitute a tyranny of wealth. The problem here is that not all political parties standing for election are able to enter the vote market, which could be avoided by introducing yet another restriction on the vote market.

Call this the All Parties Are Buyers Condition : all parties competing in the election must be potential vote buyers. The problem with this move though is that it places high entry costs on any political party hoping to stand for election. With the Equal Budget Condition in place as well, the Socialists can now only stand for election if they can match the funding of the other parties. If only parties with sufficient resources have a reasonable chance of getting votes, most of these will have to be supported by wealthy donors.

In this section we have argued that even a vote market that possesses the constraints that Taylor proposes would still be vulnerable to the tyranny of wealth objection. In this section, we show how this problem can be fixed by introducing additional restrictions. While Taylor may thus be right in claiming that not all vote markets are vulnerable to the tyranny of wealth objection, we will argue that the avalanche of required restrictions will inhibit such vote markets from reaping their purported benefits.

It is worth noting again that Taylor has argued in a series of papers that the purported benefits of vote markets are illusory Taylor , a , b ; Forthcoming a.

Our aim is to show that avoiding the tyranny of wealth objection by introducing additional restrictions to vote markets will make it even harder to make the case that vote markets would bring about any of these purported benefits. The high entry costs that potential vote buyers face and that benefit Rich over Poor Parties can be avoided by, for example, capping the amount of money that any private person or company can donate to political parties a Restricted Donations Condition or capping the party budgets themselves a Restricted Budget Condition.

While these fixes would indeed avoid a tyranny of wealth re-emerging, they also raise new questions. If donations are restricted, where is the funding for political parties to come from? And how low should the cap on budgets be for the less affluent political parties to access the market as well? The lower the cap, the narrower the scope of the vote market, since political parties will be able to buy fewer vote packages.

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Of course neither of these problems is decisive. Political parties could be funded by the state and it may be accepted that vote markets are limited. We return to both possibilities later in the paper. The real issue we want to stress here is that the proposal we end up with no longer succeeds in generating the benefits that vote markets have and that provided the reasons to consider vote markets in the first place.

In what follows, we examine each of the three benefits Freiman mentions: reflecting the intensity of preferences, generating mutually beneficial results and respecting and expanding voter liberty. People with strong preferences can buy the votes of those with weaker preferences, at a price that reflects the strength of both sets of preferences. While unrestricted vote markets can achieve this Levmore , a Taylor-style restricted vote market does so to a far lesser extent.

First, the Proportionality Condition implies that people can only sell their vote for a fixed price. This would not reveal the preference intensity of sellers as effectively as auctioning off votes would Philipson and James Jr. This is roughly similar to an electoral system without a vote market, where people with intense political preferences are more likely to cast their vote and organise politically in other ways such as rallying or forming interest groups than those without intense preferences, who are more likely to abstain and refrain from other kinds of political action.

Compared to these, restricted vote markets do not better reflect preference intensities at all. In response, Taylor could point out that his proposal provides at least some information about the intensity of preferences across the electorate. If the Political Parties Only Condition is met, the electorate will no longer be able to buy votes.

If a rich person cannot buy votes, this restricts his opportunity to express how intensely he prefers some electoral outcome. More problematic in egalitarian terms is the scenario where the poor have a hard time forming a political party that is able to buy vote packages. If they fail to do so, the poor cannot reap the benefits that the vote market supposedly brings to buyers.

The Restricted Donations and Restricted Budget Conditions also limit the extent to which people with intense preferences can satisfy these on the market. With a low cap on private donations, the playing field is indeed levelled but only a limited amount of vote packages can be sold and bought. Again, the potential benefits of vote markets will not be achieved to the fullest since many who want to sell their votes may find themselves unable to do so.

The second purported advantage of vote markets Freiman refers to is their ability to generate mutually beneficial exchanges. After all, anyone who decides to sell votes or organise politically to buy vote packages would presumably only do so because they judge that it would make them better off.

Rather, it is whether introducing such a vote market would make people better off. When we keep in mind the constraints imposed by the Package, Competition and Equal Budget Conditions , it is hard to see how it would, for example, make political parties better off. They can only buy votes if 1 these come from a cross section of classes, 2 there is competition from other vote buyers and 3 their competitors have an equal budget for votes. According to Taylor, this ensures that voters make decisions about whom to sell their vote based on political preferences rather than financial incentives.

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Appointments Clause

However, if this is the case, then political parties would be paying for votes that they would also have received if there had been no vote market in place. In response to this argument it might be claimed that at least some of the votes that political parties buy are ones that they would not have received otherwise: the votes from the politically apathetic who would have abstained in the absence of a vote market. So parties buying votes are benefitting from the vote market as they collect votes they would otherwise not attract.

However, this benefit is illusory since their competitors will manage to buy such votes as well.

So while such a vote market will lead to an increase in votes being cast, the vote buyers will not be benefitted overall. There are other reasons why Taylor-style vote markets would fail to bring about efficiency gains and thus fail to benefit all or at least most. In fact, there are efficiency arguments against vote buying, a practice that involves money being spent merely on gaining political advantage over political adversaries.

Downs , p. These and other problems see also Philipson and James Jr. The third purported advantage of vote markets is that they would increase voter liberty. Again, however, the situation becomes more complicated when we include the restrictions needed to avoid the re-emergence of the tyranny of wealth. After all, the All Parties are Buyers Condition creates high entry costs that allows only those parties with significant resources to compete.

To fix this, the Restricted Donation Condition needs to be introduced, but this raises the question of where the funding for political parties is to come from.


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If the state were to fund political parties, this would no longer constitute an increase in voter liberty, as taxpayers would be forced to contribute funds towards political parties so that the latter can purchase votes. The added liberty for some people, who now have the option to sell their vote, does not compensate for this decrease in liberty across the electorate. The other way to avoid significant entry costs to the political process was the Restricted Budget Condition. While not forcing taxpayers to fund vote buyers, it does so at the cost of significantly limiting the scope of these vote markets.

Again, any increase in voter liberty is doomed to be small. Let us conclude by bringing together the two lines of argumentation that we have pursued. In general, we want to claim that vote market proposals face the following dilemma. Either they secure the benefits of vote markets but then they inevitably lead to a tyranny of wealth, or they are restricted so heavily that they fail to secure the benefits that make up their justification. Our general claim is thus that, the better a vote market succeeds in avoiding the tyranny of wealth objection, the less of the supposed advantages of vote markets it will have.

Some of our criticisms of Taylor may be picking holes in the details of a proposal that is not fully developed.

Ideals of democracy

Still, we believe it is a good test case for our more general claim that proposals along these lines will inevitably fail to avoid the tyranny of wealth objection if they are not restricted accordingly or fail to reap the benefits vote markets are to bring about it they are restricted accordingly. While proponents of vote markets may try to come up with different proposals, we believe the burden of proof lies squarely with them to show that such markets can both function as proper markets and still avoid the tyranny of wealth. A tension between the conditions stipulated and the very idea of vote markets: can one really speak of a proper market if individuals can only sell the commodity at hand when circumstances are exactly right supply side and when no individual is allowed to buy the commodity at hand demand side.