Government Intentions and
“Public choice” is the academic name for the analysis of the powers and decisions of government made for the supposed good of the people. A better description is “the economics of politics,” for three reasons. The first and most obvious is that analyzed by Professor Tullock in his Chapter 1: with rare historical exceptions, political power does not transform people into selfless saints or all-wise seers. The second is the less obvious reason, still generally overlooked or denied by political scientists and sociologists, that elected government (or any other collection of individuals) cannot judge the individual preferences of the people it is designed to represent. And the third is the historic evidence that, even where the collectives begin by putting the people first, they end in putting the people second and themselves first by continuing their activities long after economic change has made them undesirable, superfluous, and resented.
A crucial purpose of public choice economics is to analyze the motives of individuals in government—as politicians, their advisers, public servants, senior bureaucrats, and their aides. It identifies their objects and functions as men and women in public life and reveals whether, if at all, and how they differ in contrast with the objects of individuals in private life.
Professor Tullock concludes from his analysis of public choice that human motives are fundamentally the same in public as in private lives. The supposed contrast between public and private purposes is largely fictional. People in private activities, who work in competitive markets, have to do real public good because if they