Liberal Democracy and Markets
: An Evolutionary Political Theory of Preference Satisfaction

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation utilises evolutionary theory to assess if “free” markets are a suitable alternative to the shortcomings of liberal democracy in respect of preference satisfaction. Furthermore, it also aims to understand the desirability of the liberal satisfaction of individual preferences. The thesis concludes that, from an evolutionary point of view, the liberal satisfaction of individual preferences is not necessarily desirable. Thus, the “free” market is not a suitable alternative to liberal democracy’s shortcomings because both institutions operate under a liberal meta-morality that potentially weakens groups in the evolutionary process of inter-group competition.

This thesis applies the group selectionist model of multilevel selection theory to the analysis of preference satisfaction in markets and liberal democracy. It is argued that both these institutions have a high potential in terms of maximizing individual preferences. Nonetheless, the maximization of individual preferences does not mean that the evolutionary fitness of individuals and their groups will be equally maximized. Hence, after analysing the evolutionary impact of the liberal satisfaction of individual preferences, it is asserted that such practice reveals maladaptive tendencies that impact negatively on the fitness of the groups that promote it.

This dissertation will also reanalyse the essential claims of public choice theory – the traditional theoretical framework that compares preference satisfaction in markets and politics. In particular, it revaluates public choice theory’s classic postulate that markets are a suitable alternative to the shortcomings of western liberal democracies in regard to preference satisfaction. The differences between the evolutionary and the public choice perspective will be highlighted and the implications discussed.
Date of Award1 Sept 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJohn Meadowcroft (Supervisor) & Brian Salter (Supervisor)

Cite this