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By Duncan Black. Cambridge University Press. Price 30s. Mays - - Philosophy 36 Consensus, Contracts, and Committees. Jonathan D. Moreno - - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 16 4 Hilary M. The Structure of the Spatial Theory of Elections. Dreier - - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 4 Greek and Roman Voting and Elections. Nonvoting and the Decisiveness of Electoral Outcomes. Paul R. Felsenthal - unknown.

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Elections in the Ancient World. Ernest Barker - - New York: J. Norton Publishers. Elections Under Tiberius. Shotter - - Classical Quarterly 16 02 Demonstration Elections: U. Edward S. Elections and Voting, — General treatments of public choice may also be classified under public economics. A precursor of modern public choice theory was the work of Knut Wicksell , [7] which treated government as political exchange, a quid pro quo , in formulating a benefit principle linking taxes and expenditures.

Some subsequent economic analysis has been described as treating government as though it attempted "to maximize some kind sort of welfare function for society" and as distinct from characterizations of economic agents , such as those in business. Modern public-choice theory has been dated from the work of Duncan Black , sometimes called "the founding father of public choice".

Kenneth J. Arrow 's Social Choice and Individual Values influenced formulation of the theory. James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock coauthored The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy , considered one of the landmarks in public choice. In particular, the preface describes the book as "about the political organization" of a free society. But its methodology, conceptual apparatus, and analytics "are derived, essentially, from the discipline that has as its subject the economic organization of such a society" , p.

The book focuses on positive-economic analysis as to the development of constitutional democracy but in an ethical context of consent. The consent takes the form of a compensation principle like Pareto efficiency for making a policy change and unanimity or at least no opposition as a point of departure for social choice.

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Somewhat later, the probabilistic voting theory started to displace the median voter theory in showing how to find Nash equilibria in multidimensional space. The theory was later formalized further by Peter Coughlin. One way to organize the subject matter studied by public choice theorists is to begin with the foundations of the state itself. According to this procedure, the most fundamental subject is the origin of government. Although some work has been done on anarchy , autocracy , revolution , and even war , the bulk of the study in this area has concerned the fundamental problem of collectively choosing constitutional rules.

This work assumes a group of individuals who aim to form a government, then it focuses on the problem of hiring the agents required to carry out government functions agreed upon by the members. Another major sub-field is the study of bureaucracy. The usual model depicts the top bureaucrats as being chosen by the chief executive and legislature, depending on whether the democratic system is presidential or parliamentary.

The typical image of a bureau chief is a person on a fixed salary who is concerned with pleasing those who appointed him or her. The latter have the power to hire and fire him or her more or less at will. The bulk of the bureaucrats , however, are civil servants whose jobs and pay are protected by a civil service system against major changes by their appointed bureau chiefs.

This image is often compared with that of a business owner whose profit varies with the success of production and sales, who aims to maximize profit, and who can in an ideal system hire and fire employees at will. Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky claim that democratic policy is biased to favor "expressive interests" and neglect practical and utilitarian considerations. Brennan and Lomasky differentiate between instrumental interests any kind of practical benefit, both monetary and non-monetary and expressive interests forms of expression like applause. According to Brennan and Lomasky, the paradox of voting can be resolved by differentiating between expressive and instrumental interests.

This argument has led some public choice scholars to claim that politics is plagued by irrationality. In articles published in the Econ Journal Watch , economist Bryan Caplan contended that voter choices and government economic decisions are inherently irrational. Countering Donald Wittman 's arguments in The Myth of Democratic Failure , Caplan claims that politics is biased in favor of irrational beliefs. According to Caplan, democracy effectively subsidizes irrational beliefs. Anyone who derives utility from potentially irrational policies like protectionism can receive private benefits while imposing the costs of such beliefs on the general public.

Were people to bear the full costs of their "irrational beliefs", they would lobby for them optimally, taking into account both their instrumental consequences and their expressive appeal. Instead, democracy oversupplies policies based on irrational beliefs. Caplan defines rationality mainly in terms of mainstream price theory, pointing out that mainstream economists tend to oppose protectionism and government regulation more than the general population, and that more educated people are closer to economists on this score, even after controlling for confounding factors such as income, wealth or political affiliation.

One criticism is that many economists do not share Caplan's views on the nature of public choice. However, Caplan does have data to support his position. Economists have, in fact, often been frustrated by public opposition to economic reasoning. As Sam Peltzman puts it:. Economists know what steps would improve the efficiency of HSE [health, safety, and environmental] regulation, and they have not been bashful advocates of them. These steps include substituting markets in property rights, such as emission rights, for command and control The real problem lies deeper than any lack of reform proposals or failure to press them.

It is our inability to understand their lack of political appeal. Public choice's application to government regulation was developed by George Stigler and Sam Peltzman Public choice theory is often used to explain how political decision-making results in outcomes that conflict with the preferences of the general public. For example, many advocacy group and pork barrel projects are not the desire of the overall democracy. However, it makes sense for politicians to support these projects.

It may make them feel powerful and important. It can also benefit them financially by opening the door to future wealth as lobbyists. The project may be of interest to the politician's local constituency , increasing district votes or campaign contributions. The politician pays little or no cost to gain these benefits, as he is spending public money. Special-interest lobbyists are also behaving rationally. They can gain government favors worth millions or billions for relatively small investments. They face a risk of losing out to their competitors if they don't seek these favors.

The taxpayer is also behaving rationally. The cost of defeating any one government give-away is very high, while the benefits to the individual taxpayer are very small. Each citizen pays only a few pennies or a few dollars for any given government favor, while the costs of ending that favor would be many times higher. Everyone involved has rational incentives to do exactly what they are doing, even though the desire of the general constituency is opposite. Costs are diffused, while benefits are concentrated. Social Choice and Welfare , 1: — Baron, D.

A sequential choice perspective on legislative organization. Legislative Studies Quarterly , — Bernheim, D. Common agency. Econometrica , — Besley, T. An economic model of representative democracy. Quarterly Journal of Economics , 85— Black, D. The Theory of Committees and Elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cox, G.

The Institutions and Mechanisms of Public Choice

Centripetal and centrifugal incentives in electoral systems. American Journal of Political Science , — Strategic voting equilibria under the single nontransferable vote. Crawford, V. Strategic information transmission. Davis, O. A mathematical model of policy formation in a democratic society. In Mathematical Applications in Political Science , ii, ed.

Dallas, Tex. Southern Methodist University Press. Some results related to a mathematical model of policy formation in a democratic society. In Mathematical Applications in Political Science , iii, ed. An expository development of a mathematical model of the electoral process. Diermeier, D. Explanatory concepts in formal political theory. Mimeo, Stanford University. A structural model of government formation. Econometrica , 27— Downs, A. An Economic Theory of Democracy.

New York: Harper. Feddersen, T. American Economic Review , — Ferejohn, J. Closeness counts only in horseshoes and dancing. American Political Science Review , —5. Fudenberg, D. Game Theory. Cambridge, Mass. Harsanyi, J. Management Science , —82, —34, — Hotelling, H. Stability in competition. Economic Journal , 41— Ledyard, J. The pure theory of large two-candidate elections. Public Choice , 7— McLean, I. The Borda and Condorcet principles: three medieval applications.

Social Choice and Welfare , 7: 99— McKelvey, R. Intransitivities in multidimensional voting models and some implications for agenda control.

Journal of Economic Theory , — General conditions for global intransitivities in formal voting models. Covering, dominance and institution-free properties of social choice. Generalized symmetry conditions at a core point. May, K. A set of independent necessary and sufficient conditions for simple majority decision.


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Econometrica , —4. Miller, N. A new solution set for tournaments and majority voting. American Journal of Political Science , 68— Committees, Agendas and Voting. Chur: Harwood Academic.

Public Choice

Myerson, R. Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict. Population uncertainty and Poisson games. International Journal of Game Theory , — Theoretical comparisons of electoral systems. European Economic Review , — Large Poisson games. Journal of Economic Theory , 7— Comparison of scoring rules in Poisson voting games.

Nash, J.


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  • Noncooperative games. Annals of Mathematics , — Ordeshook, P. Agendas, strategic voting and signaling with incomplete information. Osborne, M. A model of political competition with citizen-candidates. Quarterly Journal of Economics , 65— Palfrey, T. In Models of Strategic Choice in Politics , ed. A strategic calculus of voting.

    Submission history

    Persson, T. Separation of powers and political accountability. Quarterly Journal of Economics , — Plott, C.

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    A notion of equilibrium and its possibility under majority rule. Riker, W. The Theory of Political Coalitions. A theory of the calculus of voting. American Political Science Review , 25— Rubinstein, A. Perfect equilibrium in a bargaining model. Econometrica , 97— Saari, D. The generic existence of a core for q -rules. Economic Theory , 9: — Schofield, N.

    Instability of simple dynamic games.