Populares or optimates? Special interests groups compete for the acquisition and further transmission of information to an imperfectly informed government. For high enough levels of conflict between special interests groups, a group with a higher stake may decide not to get organized into a lobby because efforts made for producing information may turn out to be useless in order to capture political authority. This is because, for the low-stake group, a higher conflict or a higher stake asymmetry (e.g. income inequality) acts as a motivation device for capturing more political authority, provided that the government is not systematically biased towards the high-stake groups' interests. This opportunity cost of unbiased governance for the high-stake groups could provide microfoundations to help explain why the lack of consensus (conflict) and inequality hinder the development of democracy in many countries (or threat it in others), their later belonging to international governance and regulation bodies, or their later adoption of regulatory authorities in many sectors (and even the high fragmentation and compartmentalization of regulatory power in some industries such as banking and finance, or the resistance to move from domestic to international regulation), that is why good governance (pursuing general welfare) is so often impaired both geographically and at the sector level. Eventually, governments with high levels of independent information in their hands face less one-sided capture by the low-stake group (e.g. less tempted by populism) in a well-functioning democracy. There is thus a trade-off between populism on the one hand, and good governance on the other hand, because democracy enables populism when governments are highly uninformed on their own while facing increasing inequality and lower consensus among constituents.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jose_anson/5/