Selectorate Theory is a game theoretic theory of politics and power that aims to explain political behavior and structure as a consequence of a leader's motivation to gain power and keep it as long as he can.

The theory posits that no leader can rule alone, and thus always has to satisfy some amount of key people. in autocracies that number is small, and in democracies that number is large.

The theory separates the rest of the population (apart from the leader) into three groups. 

  • interchangeables - are those who can influence the selection of the president (e.g, anyone who has voting rights)
  • influentials - are those who actually influence (e.g, those who actually end up voting)
  • essentials - those who's support is essential for the selection of the leader (e.g, the minimum amount of voters needed to be elected and the electoral college)
Euler diagram of the three groups

Leaders satisfy the essentials by giving them rewards. the more essentials there are the more expensive it is to reward them privately, and the more it's worth to create public goods from which both they and everyone else benefit. which is how the theory explains the difference between the amount of public goods in democracies versus autocracies....

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