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Voting Through the Looking Glass

Robert E. Goodin
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 77, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), pp. 420-434
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1958926
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Voting Through the Looking Glass
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Abstract

Political candidates embody possibilities as well as preferences. To some extent, their possibilities vary systematically and inversely with their preferences. Political systems often have built-in @`stops@' preventing left-wing candidates from doing things too far to the left of their declared positions and vice versa. The preferences of right-wing candidates make them unlikely to want to pursue policies on the far left, but at least the opportunity to do so is available to them in a way that may be denied to left-wingers themselves. Taking differential possibilities into account, it might prove instrumentally rational to vote perversely for the right-wing candidate if you really ally want left-wing results and vice versa. This article sketches conditions under which that proposition will hold true, shows those conditions are empirically plausible, and suggests that politicians themselves are alive to these possibilities. This awareness should make us much more cautious in reading any policy-specific mandates into electoral outcomes. It may even make us doubt the model of instrumental rationality itself.

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