Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics

By Leif Lewin; Donald Lavery | Go to book overview
Save to active project

When we come finally to the institutional factors in the producer perspective, we arrive at the public-choice school. The citizens get the public sector that the politicians (Downs) or the bureaucrats (Niskanen) conceive of and put on the market.49

Discarding or de-emphasizing the budget-maximization hypothesis does not leave one by any means empty-handed when one tries to account for the increase of the public sector in the United States and Western Europe.


CONCLUSIONS

To follow the debate concerning bureaucrats as budget-maximizers is to listen to a lively and intelligent, at times even brilliant, conversation in which insights and hypotheses cross swords while the will to test the notion systematically is less well developed. In this theoretically top- heavy debate, with each new model more elegant than the last, the hypothesis lives on as if it stated something about reality, as if it were confirmed through observation and not merely the expression of an obstinate postulate. The aura of legend has arisen around the budget- maximization hypothesis and we become mesmerized into believing in its vitality by being confronted with it everywhere. On the popular television programme 'Yes Minister', Sir Humphrey Appleby says, 'The Civil Service does not make profits or losses. Ergo, we measure success by the size of our staff and budget. By definition, a big department is more successful than a small one . . . this simple proposition is the basis of our whole system.'50

No matter how such quips may tickle our prejudices and strengthen our impressionistic experiences, a scientific description must be founded on more systematic work. In this respect one is in the first place struck by the manifoldness and complexity inherent in the causal explanations offered. To trace the growth of the public sector to a single cause such as the bureaucracy's selfish interest in maximum budgets is, as the survey of the debate has shown, clearly to over- simplify matters. A number of conditions of the most various nature seem to be at work. At the same time, the relations between these conditions are themselves complicated. Simply to run Tarschys's coarse classification through a regression analysis in the hope of determining the explanatory power of the separate factors would not be worth the effort, since the factors are themselves so different from

-94-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 154

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?