Collective Decision Making: Applications from Public Choice Theory

Collective Decision Making: Applications from Public Choice Theory

Collective Decision Making: Applications from Public Choice Theory

Collective Decision Making: Applications from Public Choice Theory

Excerpt

Charles J. Hitch

When I came to RFF I believed strongly that institutional factors were of preeminent importance in shaping resource and environmental policies, as well as in determining what actually happens in implementing those policies, and hoped that the thrust of RFF's research could be modified to reflect the true importance of institutions.

It proved to be much harder than I expected for a number of reasons, some of them adventitious; others, I expect, fundamental. We probably did not have on the research staff enough people with the interest and experience to deal effectively with institutional problems, and financial constraints on hiring and growth made it impossible to change the character of the staff substantially in the short run. We found it very difficult to obtain grants for institutional studies, which reinforced these constraints. Foundations and granting agencies had an image of RFF as solely an economic policy research organization: it was not obvious to them that we could contribute to the analysis of intergovernmental relations, the sociology of decision making, or the role of the courts, to cite a few relevant examples. In short, we had an "image" problem with potential sponsors.

But the obstacles were not all externally imposed. We had genuine self-doubts about the state of the art of institutional analysis; a feeling that current tools are far from satisfactory for predicting and assessing the effects of suggested institutional changes. Let us take a relatively simple example.

President Carter believes, as I do, that institutions matter. Specifically, he believes (more strongly than I do), that the organization of the executive branch of the federal government matters a great deal. His Office of Management and Budget has appointed a series of task forces in various areas to come up with recommendations for reorganization. One of these groups is dealing with natural resource and environmental . . .

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