Paper No. 12-2008
Like voters (the represented), politicians (the representees) are the heart and soul of representative democracy. But isnt being a politician just like any other job? After we get past the rhetoric, is politics any different than other occupations? In the political sector, voters, parties and politicians represent the counterparts of consumers, firms and workers/managers in the market sector. In fact, the analogy is much deeper than it may appear at first sight. In the market sector, consumers determine to a large extent the success of a firm and ultimately the managements fate. However, managers are chosen by the firms, which typically have an objective that is different from those of consumers and managers. Likewise, while in all democratic systems the voters ultimately determine who is elected, it is typically the case that political parties nominate candidates for public office. Furthermore, the objectives of voters and parties with respect to the selection of candidates may differ, and are constrained by the career ambitions of individuals with political aspirations. But then, what really makes a career in the political sector different from a career in any other economic sector? There are at least three distinctive features that characterize the labor market in the political sector. First, politicians are typically under the spotlight, receiving the attention of the media and of a variety of citizens organizations. This makes politics a showcase, where politicians in office can display their political skills, while it might be more difficult for individuals working in the market sector to reveal their market ability. Second, inter-party competition for potential politicians is likely to be of secondary importance, as ideological preferences are more likely to attract individuals toward specific parties at the beginning of their political careers. Third, it is often the case that political parties take care of their losers by reserving partys positions to defeated incumbents. As a result, while individual careers within the political sector are inevitably linked to the opportunities available within parties, the extent to which individual endowments of political and market skills are correlated, or experience in the political (market) sector is also valuable in the market (political) sector, links the labor markets of the two sectors. This link affects the selection of politicians, the politicians careers, and the relationship between parties and voters.