Public Finance and the Political Process

Public Finance and the Political Process

Public Finance and the Political Process

Public Finance and the Political Process


Holcombe presents theoretical models, melds theory and empirical work, and juxtaposes economics and political science. Further, he provides insights into such concepts as agenda control, points out the advantages of incumbency, explains government as a natural monopoly, establishes an updating of the social contract, and examines the virtues of common law in contrast to statutory law.

In his final chapters, Holcombe provides a foundation upon which the preceding chapters are logically built. From his analysis, itappears that there is an approximate correspondence between voter preferences and political outcomes, as depicted by a median voter model, but that for many reasons resource allocation through the public sector is considerably less efficient than through the private sector.


The main purpose of this book is to examine the decision-making process in the public sector of a democracy -- the process through which the preferences of voters are translated into public sector output. The process is complex, and although a great deal is understood about it, there is still a great deal left to learn. I hope this book will be able to contribute something to that body of knowledge.

Many of the ideas developed in this book have appeared already in journal articles, but I thought it worthwhile to include them in a book for two main reasons. First, it has provided me the opportunity to expand upon and refine my earlier ideas. More significantly, though, presenting these ideas in book form has enabled me to relate many ideas together, and, I hope, to present them as a coherent whole, rather than as isolated pictures of specific aspects of public sector activity. The result is intended to give the reader a general model of the way in which individual preferences are aggregated in order to produce the demand for public sector output.

The ideas in this book have been developed over a number of years, and have been influenced by a number of people. Foremost on the list is James M. Buchanan, under whom I had the good fortune of studying as a graduate student. His influence is evident in the subject matter and approach that I have used (and also in my many references to his work). In addition, he has provided many helpful comments on parts of the manuscript. Gordon Tullock also deserves significant mention for his influence on my thinking, as well as the many comments that he has provided on portions of the manuscript.

Many other people have had an impact on the contents of this book. Chapter 9 was written after I had heard a series of lectures by Robert Summers, and the legal cases cited there were . . .

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