the word on class and political parties, from Political Science

Asked by me to explain Poli-Sci’s take on the question: “Why do we have two (2) parties (one A-team, one B-team) representing capital in the U.S. (and no one representing anyone else)?”, my poli-sci guru said:

“I suppose it depends on what you think capital’s (capital as sector or factor) overarching interest is. My bet is that capital, irrespective of sectoral divisions within, wants to limit redistribution from itself to the poor, middle class, working class.

There’s really strong cross-national evidence that the more proportional an electoral system is, the higher taxes and redistribution are. Increased proportionality improves the representation of the poor/left which often times enters a governing coalition with a party of the center and votes for higher taxes on capital and redistributes to its own constituencies.

If you want to avoid this, a two party system is very nice as it forces the left to moderate itself in search of voters in the middle of the ideological (or income) distribution. The rich get off even better if a two party system is imposed on a society in which the vote of the left is geographically concentrated (it’s almost always concentrated in cities), because the resulting single member districts tend to create a smallish number of very, very safe and ‘far to the’ left districts (Sigrunn’s scare quotes).

In the meantime, the right is able to gerrymander the suburbs and rural areas in a way to generate a right, or conservative, bias in the electoral system.

There are more formal, semi-bullshit stories one could spin out of the median voter theorem, and how it works under different electoral systems, that would provide a similar account.

This all works only if you think capital’s preferences are fundamentally different from those of the poor. There are others who tell stories of efficient bargains where the interests of workers and capital in any given sector are consistent with each other. I think these latter stories are pretty wacked.”


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