Anthony Downs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the American horse racing track, see Anthony Downs (race track).
Anthony Downs
Downs (1).jpg
Born (1930-11-21) November 21, 1930 (age 83)
Evanston, Illinois
Nationality United States
Institution Brookings Institution
Field Public economics
Political sciences
School/tradition Public Choice school
Alma mater Stanford University
Carleton College
Influences Joseph Schumpeter
Julius Margolis
Kenneth J. Arrow
Influenced Duncan Black

Anthony Downs (/dnz/; born November 21, 1930) is an American economist specializing in public policy and public administration. Since 1977 he is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C..


Downs received a B.A. from Carleton College and later a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University.[citation needed]


Downs has served as a consultant to many of the nation's largest corporations and public institutions, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the White House. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the National Commission on Urban Problems in 1967, and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp appointed him to the Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing in 1989. He is officer or trustee of General Growth Properties and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

He is the author or co-author of 24 books and over 500 articles. His most influential books are An Economic Theory of Democracy (1957) and Inside Bureaucracy (1967); widely translated, both are credited as major influences on the public choice school of political economy. Later, Downs concerned himself with housing policy, writing about rent control and housing affordability. The Revolution in Real Estate Finance (1985) predicted a long-term housing slowdown and decrease in housing prices. Most recently, Downs has involved himself with transportation economics. His book Stuck in Traffic (1992), which detailed the economic disadvantages of traffic congestion and proposed road pricing as the only effective means of alleviating it, was denounced by traffic engineers for its insistence on the futility of congestion relief measures. However, enough of his gloomy predictions about congestion were proven right that he successfully published a second edition, Still Stuck in Traffic (2004). Downs' recommendations are starting to see implementation, largely in the form of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the medians of crowded American freeways, and through congestion pricing, already implemented in several cities around the world: Singapore[1] (see Area Licensing Scheme and Electronic Road Pricing); London (see London congestion charge); Stockholm (see Stockholm congestion tax); Valletta, Malta;[2][3] and Milan[4][5][6]

Downs' axis[edit]

In his seminal work An Economic Theory of Democracy (1957), Downs introduced a left–right axis (later known as Downs' axis)[7] to economic theory. On the 'left' he placed communistic parties, who want an entirely state-planned economy, on the 'right' those conservatives, who demand an entirely deregulated economy.[8] He claimed that most voters have incomplete information when voting for political candidates in a democracy, and therefore will resort to economic issues of "how much government intervention in the economy there should be" and how parties will control this. Downs borrowed the curve from Harold Hotelling, who developed it to explain how grocery stores targeted customers. Downs' book has since become one of the most cited books in political science. His left–right axis model has been integrated into the median voter theory first articulated by Duncan Black.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Road pricing Singapore's experience
  2. ^ Controlled Vehicular Access, CVA Technology, 1 May 2007
  3. ^ Valletta traffic congestion considerably reduced
  4. ^ Milan introduces traffic charge
  5. ^ Milan Introduces Congestion Charge To Cut Pollution
  6. ^ Congestion fee leaves Milan in a jam
  7. ^ Conceptualising the left-right continuum as an enduring dimension of political competition, European University Institute, 1996, p. 8.
  8. ^ Downs, Anthony (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York. p. 116. 
  9. ^ Black, Duncan (1948). "On the Rationale of Group Decision-making". Journal of Political Economy 56 (1): 23–34. doi:10.1086/256633. JSTOR 1825026. 

External links[edit]