Public Choice Theory

I asked Don Boudreaux his opinion of the best primer on public choice theory, a topic of interest to many libertarians.  He recommended William Mitchell & Randy Simmons, Beyond Politics (1994).  I have ordered a used copy from Amazon and will give my thoughts on it once I have had a chance to peruse it.

  • Georg Thomas

    Thanks for the hint. If Boudreaux recommends the book, it must be good. I find Boudreaux particularly brilliant when he writes about Public Choice related issues.

    (See e.g. my post: http://redstateeclectic.typepad.com/redstate_commentary/2009/07/cheap-talk-and-constrained-wants.html)

    The amazon description of "Beyond Politics" is quite promising, too.

    I found rather useful another not-too-lengthy (less than 200 pages) introduction:

    "Government Failure. A Primer in Public Choice." (2002) By Gordon Tulluck, Arthur Seldon and Gordon L. Brady.

  • Georg Thomas

    That's "Gordon Tullock," of course.

  • Ron H.

    I'm looking forward to your review. There are only 2 reviews at Amazon for this book, and one of them isn't very useful. The reviewer wonders why the authors believe there's a difference between political solutions and market solutions. LOL

  • Georg Thomas

    No reviews in Germany's amzon.de

    But there is a Kurzbeschreibung (short decription) and a synopsis, both in English, both rather useful:
    Kurzbeschreibung
    Traditional public policy and welfare economics have held that market failures are common, requiring the intervention of government in order to serve and protect the public good. In Beyond Politics, William C. Mitchell and Randy T. Simmons carefully scrutinize this traditional view through the modern theory of public choice. The authors enlighten the relationship of government and markets by emphasizing the actual rather than the ideal workings of governments and by reuniting the insights of economics with those of political science. Beyond Politics traces the anatomy of government failure and a pathology of contemporary political institutions as government has become a vehicle for private gain at public expense. In so doing, this brisk and vigorous book examines a host of public issues, including social welfare, consumer protection, and the environment. Offering a unified and powerful perspective on the market process, property rights, politics, contracts, and government bureaucracy, Beyond Politics is a lucid and comprehensive book on the foundations and institutions of a free and humane society.

    Synopsis
    Traditional welfare economics has held that market failures are fairly common and that they are best addressed through the intervention of governments. In Beyond Politics, Professors Mitchell and Simmons present the traditional view and compare it to the modern theory of public choice, which emphasizes the actual rather than the ideal workings of governments. By reuniting the insights of economics with those of political science, the authors have produced a unified and powerful statement about the market process, property rights, contracts, and government. Beyond Politics offers an accessible and reliable introduction to these matters while significantly advancing our understanding of them. }Traditional public policy and welfare economics have held that market failures are common, requiring the intervention of government in order to serve and protect the public good. In Beyond Politics, William C. Mitchell and Randy T. Simmons carefully scrutinize this traditional view through the modern theory of public choice.The authors enlighten the relationship of government and markets by emphasizing the actual rather than the ideal workings of governments and by reuniting the insights of eco [sic, G.T.] Beyond Politics traces the anatomy of government failure and a pathology of contemporary political institutions as government has become a vehicle for private gain at public expense. In so doing, this brisk and vigorous book examines a host of public issues, including social welfare, consumer protection, and the environment. Offering a unified and powerful perspective on the market process, property rights, politics, contracts, and government bureaucracy, Beyond Politics is a lucid and comprehensive book on the foundations and institutions of a free and humane society. }

  • Richao

    The best primers on public choice are, I believe, "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" from, believe it or not, the BBC. Should be required viewing for any candidate for public office.

  • Scott G

    Thanks for posting his recommendation. I just started reading Caplan's Myth of the Rational and find it pretty stimulating. I'll have to check out Beyond Politics too.

  • Scott G

    There are more reviews of the book here

    http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=34

  • Georg Thomas

    Scott G, thanks for the excellent link.

  • commieBob

    This is semi-off-topic but maybe not too much.

    There was an interview with P. J. O'Rourke on Radio Australia this morning. He was talking about his book "Eat the Rich" in which he looks at various countries and wonders what makes a prosperous society.

    He spoke about Hong Kong which, we will all agree, is a thriving place. He attributes that to decisions made by Sir John James Cowperthwaite after WW2. When he returned to HK after the war, Cowperthwaite wandered the back streets and observed that everywhere, people were building things and being generally entrepreneurial. He concluded that the place would do well as long as the government kept its fingers out in fact: "He refused to collect economic statistics for fear it would encourage officials to meddle in the economy." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_James_Cowperthwaite

    If you want evidence to support a libertarian approach to government and the economy, I suspect HK is a good place to look. OTOH, I am grateful that I grew up in Canada with universal public education and universal medical care. YMMV

  • morganovich

    i strongly recommend caplan's book "the myth of the rational voter"

    http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Rational-Voter-Democracies-Policies/dp/0691129428

    this is a much better, more interesting, and useful book than "beyond politics".

  • Scott G

    I've momentarily stopped reading Myth of the Rational Voter and I'm now glued to Beyond Politics. It's fantastic!