The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. … Political reason is a computing principle; adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically, or mathematically, true moral denominations.(Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, Part IV)
Is Edmund Burke right? Is the “middle” in complex political choices really “incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned”? To answer, we must recognize that real political choices are more complex than the simple choice of one policy. Considering more than one policy also requires a description of voter priorities and candidate strategies.
In this chapter, we will present a verbal and graphical exposition of choice of two policies. All the important concepts and features of twodimensional political choice will be introduced, but not covered in depth. The specialist reader, interested in the technical details, will want to skim the intuitive overview given in this chapter and then go on to Chapter 4. The reader seeing this material for the first time, however, should master the intuitive presentation before continuing.
The Appropriations Subcommittee
Let's return to the Appropriations Subcommittee from the last chapter. Suppose the members (our friends from the preceding chapter: A, B, C, D, and E) must also budget for a second project, currently slated for $40 million in spending.