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Free Democratic Peace Theory in Western European States Essay Sample


This comparative political research will be dealing with the effects of electoral institution on democracy. Following the available literature, democracy and proportional system models, concur that the major responsibility of the electorate institution is to elect members of parliament, who as a group need to be a representative of the electorate as a whole. The criterion for democratic quality of any system depends on how representative the parliament is.

By maintain electoral functions and representativeness democracy variables constant, it then emerges that that, legislatures will be doing  what voters demands them to do, meaning that, the election functions are linked to voters' preferences to the policy makers actions.  This will make proportional views to take advantage over majoritarian views in the usage of electoral institution as a democracy tool. By considering majoritarian and consensus models, it has been concluded that consensus performs better than majoritarins in almost every aspect, as they score highest in all known democracy indexes.

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Available literature continue revealing that, welfare state reforms might succeed in one country and fail in the other, based on either decommodifying or recomodifuying politics, which affects labor market forces in one way or the other. The labor market is affected negatively, the state reform will fail, and the reverse is true. Literature also states that, niche parties and mainstream parties in Western Europe differ much depending on costly policy moderation and responsiveness to the public opinion shifts. The research design used in the study is qualitative technique, while case selection system was most similar system design.


Democratic peace theory also called democratic peace holds that that democracy should rarely or not go to war. Even if the theory has been accepted, its wordings have been disputed. This is based on the reason that, peace has the main characteristics of democracy in between countries. Some of the theory's critics have argued that, it will be much more appropriate if it can me be renamed as 'democracies do not fight each other'. However, there are those who have argued that, there are various reasons as to why democracies hardly go to war with others; for instance, democratic leaders have been charged with the responsibility of answering to the voters the reasons for war, as a result, they have an incentive of looking for alternatives. As a result, such nations have dealt with conflicts by the use of other means like discussions, other than by arms, and ends up doing the same in foreign policies; that democracies look at non-democracies as being threats, and go to war with them over certain issues that would have been settled peacefully between democratic countries. In addition, democracies have lots of wealth; hence will end up losing more if they go to war, hence try as much as possible to avoid it.

On the other hand, most studies have been undertaken looked at parties involved in war, but they have ignored the matter of who initiated it. It has been indicated in many conflicts; both sides argue that, the war was initiated by the other side.  As described in (Gleditsch, Christiansen & Hegre 2004), several researchers have argued that, the study of conflict initiation is of limited value. This has been based on the fact that, the available information concerning initiation of conflicts might be particularly unreliable. However, there are some studies which dealt with this issue, and have given varying solutions to the issue at hand. For instance, Reiter and Stam (2003) explained that, most conflicts are initiated by autocracies against democracies frequently as compared to democracies against autocracies.

Mon the other hand, Quackenbush and Rudy (2006) challenged Reiter's results by confirming that, most conflicts are initiated with democracies against non-democracies more frequently as compared to non-democracies against democracies. Following this, there have been various studies which have been carried out with the aim of studying how different autocracy types, with different institutions have varied regarding conflict initiation. Some have found that, personality along with military dictatorship, are the major conflict initiation factors, as compared to autocracy such as one party states, nevertheless, also most targeted in conflict having other initiation factors. As an effect, this research looks at the effect of the design of an electoral system on the degree of electoral misconduct.

Several scholars have supported the democratic peace theory on the grounds of probability; this is because, since the start of democracy, there have been wars being fought. There have been a number of wars which have occurred between democracies, when democracies fight each other freely as other pairs of states; however the number has been too low. By considering this point of view, whether the number is zero or tending to zero, is just a secondary matter, the primary matter is that they also cause wars. "One advocate of the democratic peace explains that his reason to choose a definition of democracy sufficiently restrictive to exclude all wars between democracies is what might be disparagingly termed public relations: students and politicians will be more impressed by such a claim than by claims that wars between democracies are less likely" (Ray 1998,).

Conflicts are just normal experiences between states. In one way or the other, there are also to a large extend complex and as well as stressful issues in the society. As such, getting down to the real conflict initiation institutions is a very significant and systematic system through which states can constructively manage conflicts. This will also in enhance the discovering of new opportunities of transforming conflicts into productive learning experiences. Different theories dealing with conflict resolutions have stated that, creative problem solving strategies are very essential to positive approaches used during conflict management. However, such strategies will only apply if problem creator is identified and asked what his /her problem is. As a matter of fact, this research is far much significant to the society.  

It has been shown that, elections are the real instruments of democracy. This is based on the fact that, they usually link the preferences of citizens to the policy maker's behaviors. This means that, election is the subject of normative theories of political representation as well as democracy representative. The most essentially contested aspect in democracy is the political representation. It's meaning a long plus implications vary from one normative political representation view to the other.

The main difference that exists between political representation theories is the functions of elections. For instance, in majoritarian theories, the responsibility of government accountability is much reiterated.  However, in proportional theories, more emphasize has been placed on the selection of a legislature representative. This difference has been depicted in the electoral system choice, which can be organized depending on the level of proportionality or even representativeness, as well as the level of accountability that they all intent to offer.

However, at the end, the responsibility of electoral system can not be assessed by just looking at their mechanics. Such mechanics have to be looked upon and evaluated by voters. This question however is still open in the extent at which different institutions of election produces different perception of voters of being accountable and representative. It has not been much clear on the 9effects that their satisfaction with democracy.

The main difference between majoritarian and proportional systems lies in their view of the essence of the kind of government that can be termed as democratic, along with the responsibilities of elections. However, the two theories look at democracy as the being the government of the people, either directly or indirectly. However, the two differs on matters concerning the person charged with the responsibility of governing and whose interests that the government ought to be responsive when individuals are in disagreement and have ended up having divergent preferences.

Going with the majoriterian vision, the best answer to this question lies in the majority of people. However, the proportional vision provides the answer to this question that being as many people as possible. Due to this difference, there exists a different look on the election functions.

The majoritarian theory just looks at one of the most important function of an electoral institution, as being the government selection. It demands that, the voters should have a clear choice between the competing parties. Power concentration according to this theory, should be vested fin the hands of an elected majority government, which brings the government under a very tight control of the majority of the electorate. This form of control is rooted on two different mechanisms, which depends on the time perception of voters, or slightly what they consider taking into account when deciding on the way they will vote. If it emerges that voters based their choice on what the competing parties offers in their party manifestos, then the winning party is said to have a policy mandate from the electorate majority. This has been the mechanism that has been assumed by the responsible party model.

On the other hand, this party model has been proved to be very demanding particularly when regarding to what voters need. In addition, it is very hard for only a single vote to provide a policy mandate for multiple packages of issue dimensions. As a result, this model has been criticized as being unrealistic or idealistic and far much unfeasible. An alternative and probably feasible model is rooted on the idea of Schumpeter, which describes competitive democracy. According to this model, modern political democracy is "a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens" (Rachel, 2002). This model explains that, the mechanism of accountability is electoral institution. The difference between this model and the policy mandate model is that, "those voters make their vote choice on the basis of their evaluation of the performance of the incumbent government" (Rachel, 2002). If it emerges that the voters are satisfied gets satisfied with that particular performance, they ends up voting for the party or even a coalition of parties in the government. On the other hand, if they are not satisfied, they end up kicking the rascals out of government. This means that, they will only support those in government when things are going well, but immediately things starts going haywire, they turn their support to the opposition. This forms the essence of popular governments.

This accountability model is much demanding on the side of voters. This is based on the fact that, they are charged with the responsibility of knowing the party or coalition of partiers, is either in power or in opposition. Their information is just all about the elements of the government policy that can be limited. The issue of being either satisfied or not satisfied with the government, its policies or the outcomes, is what it takes. It proves that, voting is an element which eliminates those who has in one way or the other offended the majority of voters, to an extent of not winning the election.

The most important need in this accountability model is the accountability clarity level. By definition, accountability is near to impossibility if not clear is charged with the responsibility of government policies. The second thing is that, the sanction of partiers or party in power by voters is very effective. That is, they have the capability of kicking rascals out without risking that they will come back to power after losing elections. However, this model is only applied in the majoritarian systems where parties competing for voters' majority and one who comes out as a winner automatically become charged with the government responsibility.

Both democracy and proportional system models, agree that the major responsibility of the electorate institution is to elect members of parliament, who as a group need to be a representative of the electorate as a whole. The criterion for democratic quality o0f any system depends on how representative the parliament is. There exist no coercive relation between the outcome of an election and the government formation. Multi-party system is the ones having the traits of consensus democracy model.  This is based on the fact that, a coalition of many parties will be required in the formation of a majority government. As an effect, the size of the coalition will be very large, hence it is inevitable that some parties might find their way again back in government after elections even if voters were dissatisfied with the outgoing government. As a result, their exist an overlap between new and old coalitions, which blurs the charity of responsibility as well as making sanctions of elections as an equipment of accountability into rather blunt tool.

Just as it is in the majoritarian systems, there is a distinction between voters depending on their vote on either retrospective or prospective judgments. However, for the purpose of this paper, this is not important, but what seems to be significant is the democratic quality criterion, for the parliament representativeness systems. The two democracy models, fulfill the two most functions of election in a representative democracy concerning the main stream of democracy peace theory. First of all, an election permits voters to choose the political color of their government that makes the government accountable the people's judgment. The second thing is that, elections ought to produce legislatures that are representative of the political opinion division amongst the electorates. On the other hand, it might be oblivious that, there might be tension between the two election functions. The electoral institution and to be much specific, democratic systems are incapable of serving the two responsibilities simultaneously. Majoritarian democracy models optimizes on the functions of accountability, while consensus democracy models emphasizes representation responsibilities (Peters, 2008).

The main concern that arises then is the determination of democracy model that serves democracy theory best. It is hard to determine any, as the visions concerning representative democracy is a representation of two different normative opinions on democracy as well as the incorporation of two different electoral institutions, which in real sense ought to serve different purposes of at least different democracy concepts. "Empirical predictions about the nature of the citizen-policymaker relationship will focus on dissimilar dependent variables and not really be alternative theories about achieving the same goal". (Powell, 2000)

Getting out of this kind of dilemma requires the transformation of these independent variables, and making comparative assessment of the extent at which both majoritarian and proportional government systems might be very instrumental for democracy that is defined at higher abstraction levels. For instance, policy makers have to do what citizens demands them to do, hence, the responsibility of election connects to citizen preferences to the policy makers behaviors. This will make proportional views to take advantage over majoritarian views in the usage of electoral institution as a democracy tool. By considering majoritarian and consensus models, it has been concluded that consensus performs better than majoritarins in almost every aspect, as they score highest in all known democracy indexes.

Western Europe countries' social democracy for many years has been advocating for a decommodifying a long with universalistic welfare states, that tent to have social security advantage. As an effect, there have been social democratic parties especially from Denmark and Sweden, which have advocated for the idea in the welfare policy at the times of war. Many states have engaged in welfare state reforms in tackling high rates of unemployement as well as economic crisis. As an effect, the only known party that experienced a serious electoral set back along with a dealignment of parties of its main constituency at that period was Danish social democrats, (Kenworthy, 2006).

Different researches have argued that, "that social democratic parties tie their core constituency by its welfare policy. Since manual workers and lower white-collar employees have an interest in alleviating their dependency on market forces and social democracy has traditionally advocated a welfare state which decommodifies the wage-earner, social democratic parties have aligned a particular social stratum as core constituency" (Molina, & Rhodes, 2002). Provided that social democrats are in a position of performing a welfare policy that is in line with decommodification tenets, then they will have the capability of maintaining the alignment of their core elements. On the other hand, if social democrats stop performing decommodifications in welfare policies, then the alignment becomes questionable, and as a result, other parties may now have opportunities of luring such voters away. This in one way or the other might come along with a realignment of social democrats main elements. This is at odds already established arguments that have been insisting on the left-wing competitors, who might be the probable beneficiaries of such unpopular welfare state reforms of social democratic governments, though can be explained by the completion of parties.

In most Western Europe countries, welfare state has been regarded as a factor that ties and mobilizes the social democratic main elements. By the time democrats are advocating for an encompassing plus generous welfare states, they ends up attracting certain social groups like the working class. This has been based on the reason that, welfare states in most cases have risk-hedging responsibilities, hence demmodifying individuals from the so called pure democratic market reliance. In its place, manual stratus continue claiming for demmodification as an result of their limited endowment of resources that is due to precarious positions in the labor markets, along with low living standards when exposed to the forces at market.

In addition, decomodification in most cases works just as one component of egalitarianism; which is the main theme fin social democracy, which has been considered as being an element far much helpful in the improvement of conditions for working class along with other less well-off segments in the community, (Huo 2009). As a result social democrats ends up forming alignments with manual classes based on politics of decommodificatioon and welfare state as the respective agency. Nevertheless, this was also expounded to even lower white-collar workers who share similar positions in the labor markets, thus making them demand for a risk-hedging policy.

The fundamental claim is that social democrats have ended up mobilizing such classes through demmodification politics. However, such voters have personal interests fin the decommodification politics given their level in the market of labor. When purely exposed to market forces, there emerges a creation of hardship for such people, in this environment, labor is just a discrete item that relaying on labor demands and the accompanied labor prices. So on social policy, labor is the most conflictual issue. In addition, the risk of having no job is also contingent on economic context.

Another related property is the impacts commoditization on individuals' living standards. This is because, living standards are also contingent issues concerning wage-earners' knowledge along with demands thereof. When manual classes become endowed with narrow skills on top of being abundant on labor market, the sense of real competition on manual labor ends up decreasing their wages, this ends up lowering their living standards. Furthermore, a very low skill degree is in most cases accompanied by narrow opportunities for personal promotions. As a result, both manual employees along with lower white-collar employees end up having below average incomes. In addition, they also end up having more interests in income redistribution, salary compression as well as generous welfare entitlements, which fin one way or the other improves their living standards by labor decommodification.  As a result, decommodification that favors wage-earner is thus understood as an establishment of generous and unconditional income maintenance in unemployment environments, either old aged or sick. In case such a case if attained, wage earners will never be contingent on pure forces present in that market. But have the potentiality of improving their living standards independent from the market forces. In such a respect, decommodification is said to have been institutionalized by a universal welfare state as well as legislation guaranteeing both generous and unconditional gains that may include higher income replacement rates.

As a result, offering politics that has an effect of mitigating market forces, social democrats becomes a representative of political ally of these classes claiming risk-hedging. This coming together of working class interested based claim for decommodification and the social democratic policies accounts for simple electoral mobilization sand the formation of party's main elements along with its long term mobilization provided that social democrats are representing politics that tend to be against markets; as well as pursuing the respective social plus economic policies.

Welfare State Reforms as a Catalyst for Social Democratic Dealignment

According to Esping-Andersen (1985), social policies accounts for partisan alignment and acts as a foster of partisan dealignments along with realignments. It has been shown that, policies that depict reccommodification of labor are simply not in agreement with the interest plus preferences of the main elements of social democracy. As a consequence, if social democrats engage themselves in policies which can be regarded as departure from the decommodification politics, they risk facing a serious electoral threat. This means that, it will not be faced with short term impacts due to the dissatisfaction but will also face dealignment of the part's core electorate. Or "social democratic decomposition as the mechanism tying voter and party is suspended" (Starke, 2006).

As an emphasize, decommodifying welfare state along with the accompanied social policy has been characterized by both generous and unconditional gains, along with high replacement rates in the process of reducing the individuals' reliance on the market as the key source of income and to protest people's skills and knowledge together with assets. As a result, reforms that ai9ms at tightening eligibility criteria in most cases increases the conditionality as well as decreasing rates of replacements that clearly marks a departure from decommofdification politics. It has been depicted that, in total, social democrats that engages in welfare states reforms that encourages reccommodification of labor does not in any way fulfill the conditions of long term alignments of their main components. This is based on the reason that, it is not in agreement with the social policy demands of their original supporters. Different studies have stated that "the decommodification objective has been partially substituted by a principle of conditionality" (Starke, 2006).

It has been reported that, political parties in Western Europe tent to change their orientations of their ideologies depending on the voters policy preference shift. This follows the suggestions provided in the dynamic representation model developed by Stimson, MacKuen, and Erikson.

According to the different studies, Niche parties have been defined as these parties that primarily compete on small number of non-economic issues. This implies that, niche parties are not concerned mainly with economic issues, hence emphasize narrowly on a range of economic factors. While on the other hand, mainstream parties get themselves in a large number of non-economic matters so much. In addition, different studies have indicated that, a large number of niche parties have not been taking meaningful positions concerning the matters of left-right dimensions as compared to main stream parties.

Studies have supported the policy stability hypothesis that states that niche parties policy programs tent to be much less responsive to the to the public opinion shifts as compared to mainstream parties' programs. Such studies have also found an empirical support of a hypothesis that deals with moderation cost policy. This has been supported that, niche parties in most cases get penalized more as compared to their counterparty mainstream parties. From different stand points, it has been depicted that, Western Europe politicians in most cases change their policies depending on public opinions. It has been found that, in most cases, mainstream political parties changes their policy in a systematic response to policy preferences of their voters. However, niche parties in the same regions have not been displaying such shifts of policy responsiveness.

Concerning the hypothesis of costly policy moderation, studies have concluded that, in Western Europe, niche parties suffer electoral penalties heavily in their attempts of moderating their positions as compared to mainstream parties. This explains that policy responsiveness differ between main stream and niche parties. This can not be electorally feasible for niche parties to make changes in their policies in the name of responding in changes that have occurred in public opinion. On the other hand, such policy adjustments are much feasible electorally for mainstream parties. The conclusions on costly policy moderation supports that fact that, niche parties vote searching and policy searching objective explains that they motivate a stand -pat strategy; "for it makes little sense for a niche party to moderate its policy program in response to shifts in public opinion, if such an adjustment depresses the party's electoral support and moves the party away from its members' preferred policy positions", (Gallagher, Laver, & Mair, 2006).

The costless spatial mobility model, which assumes that political parties don't get penalized when shifting their positions in every policy space, only applies to mainstream parties and not on niche parties. However, studies have only supported such a shift only to a certain extent. However this means that, mainstream parties can repudiate their former policy commitments without any electoral cost. For instance, British labor party shifted to center under Blair. Such a shift can be termed as being the upper limit which studies have supported for mainstream stream parties can shift policies costless. However, studies have found no evidence that mainstream parties can be penalized.

Niche parties are also limited concerning left-right strategist that they can pursue feasibly. This does not imply that it is a severe drawback nor does it mean that niche parties have no strategic options concerning the pursuit of electoral and policy goals.  For instance concerning costly policy moderation, suggests that niche parties elites do not face the difficulty of strategic trade off amongst policies, a compromise along with electoral advantage that most mainstream parties basically face. This din one way or the other simplifies the decision calculation of niche parties' elites. This provides the reason as to why they have no need of confronting bitter internal debates between party realists along with ideologues that in most cases mainstream parties are beset with. Just to name, that for a niche party, radicalism of policies can be called as an electoral pragmatic strategy. The second thing is that, there exist extensive study that documents election turn in large part of valence dimension, evaluating that they have not been directly tied to party's policy position like the party elite, pictures in respect top competence and integrity along with unity. However, studies have not find any evidence stating that niche party elites can't polish their pictures or names for the sake of such valence dimensions, to enhance the electoral appeal of the party. Last but not least, due to the emerging political issues, for instance protection and policies dealing with immigration, niche parties have been awarded with lots of opportunities, hence influencing policy agendas of mainstream parties, and mainly government policy out put.


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