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Do elections have consequences? – Econlib


In his new book entitled The Federal Reserve: A New History, Robert Hetzel notes the following:

The 1912 Democratic Platform opposed “the so-called Aldrich bill or the establishment of a central bank” and demanded “protection form the control of . . . the money trust”

A year later Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act.

One can find many similar examples throughout US history.  President McKinley held dovish views on foreign policy, and then led us into war against Spain.  The Democratic platform of 1932 promising a balanced budget.  Lyndon Johnson warned that Goldwater would lead us into war in Vietnam.  The examples are endless.

Does this mean that elections do not have consequences?  I don’t think so, for several reasons.  First, there are many examples of candidates fulfilling their campaign pledges after being elected.  But in my view the most important role of elections is in encouraging good behavior.  Leaders know that when the country does poorly, the incumbent is likely to be thrown out.  This gives leaders more of an incentive to please the voters by producing peace and prosperity.  Elections are a device for disciplining politicians.

It’s no surprise that elected leaders often abolish democracy when they are about to engage in ruinous ventures.  Thus Hitler abolished German democracy in the 1930s, and Putin has abolished Russian democracy in recent years.

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