Government Failure: A Primer in Public Choice

By Gordon Tullock; Arthur Seldon et al. | Go to book overview

13.
Government Intentions and
Consequences

The Economics of Politics

“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.


Public and Private Purposes

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

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Government Failure: A Primer in Public Choice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction: About Public Choice ix
  • Part I - The Theory of Public Choice *
  • 1 - People Are People: the Elements of Public Choice 3
  • 2 - Voting Paradoxes 17
  • 3 - Logrolling 29
  • 4 - The Cost of Rent Seeking 43
  • 5 - Bureaucracy 53
  • 6 - Tax “avoision” 63
  • 7 - Federalism 71
  • Part II - American Applications *
  • 8 - Protection in International Trade 83
  • 9 - Internet Governance 93
  • 10 - Applying Public Choice to Telecommunications 103
  • 11 - Applying Public Choice to Environmental Policy 117
  • Part III - Public Choice in Britain *
  • 12 - Public Choice or Political Sovereignty? 129
  • 13 - Government Intentions and Consequences 137
  • 14 - Overdependence on the Welfare State 143
  • 15 - The Weakening of the Family 155
  • 16 - Voters Versus Consumers 159
  • 17 - The Political Fate of Economic Federalism 163
  • 18 - The Escapes from Overgovernment: Political Power Yields to Economic Law 171
  • References 177
  • The Authors 181
  • Index 183
  • Cato Institute *
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