Public Choice Theory

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A school that starts with anti-government and pro-market ideology to find that government cannot work and markets do. Surprise! See also Rational Choice Theory for the usual methodology.

Links

Blacklisted Economics Professor Found Dead: NC Publishes His Last Letter [More...]
A brilliant savaging of Public Choice Theory, and a beautiful explanation of why so many economists are pro-business hacks.
Economic Ideas You Should Forget (book) (1 link)
By discussing problematic theoretical assumptions and drawing on the latest empirical research, 71 authors question specific hypotheses and reject major economic ideas from the “Coase Theorem” to “Say’s Law” and “Bayesianism.”
Libertarian Delusions: Exposing the Flaws in Libertarian Thinking [More...]
Identifies problems with self-ownership, the idea of eliminating politics, the public choice viewpoint and blanket opposition to state action.
Steven Pressman on Public Choice Theory [More...]
Seven fundamental problems with public choice theory that make it look like a ridiculous exercise.
The Master Class on the Make [More...]
"In marking Calhoun’s political philosophy as the crucial antecedent of public choice theory, Tabarrok and Cowen unwittingly confirmed what critics have long maintained: libertarianism is a political philosophy shot through with white supremacy. Public choice theory, a technical language nominally about human behavior and incentives, helps ensure that blacks remain shackled."

Quotations

The absurdity of public-choice theory is captured by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in the following little scenario: "Can you direct me to the railway station?" asks the stranger. "Certainly," says the local, pointing in the opposite direction, towards the post office, "and would you post this letter for me on your way?" "Certainly," says the stranger, resolving to open it to see if it contains anything worth stealing.
Linda McQuaig, "All You Can Eat"
[...] public choice theory is simply refuted by the evidence, something that people do not note nearly often enough. Political scientists have known – and empirically confirmed – that voters and politicians mostly act in what they perceive to be the public interest, rather than for selfish gains. This isn’t to say that there is no truth to public choice theory, but evidence suggests it is more appropriate to model politicians and voters as public servants who are buffeted by special interest than as selfish maximisers who occasionally stumble upon a beneficial policy. The result is that democracy is far more effective a tool for translating collective interests into policy than libertarians might suggest.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
Saying ‘governments can’t create wealth’ is a sweeping, largely vacuous statement based on a superficial zero sum view of taxation as being ‘extracted’ from the private sector. In fact, taxation is just one prong of a symbiotic relationship that exists between the private and public sectors. If we take the definition of wealth as the creation of valuable resources, it’s clear that, say, teaching and infrastructure ‘create wealth.’ We’ve already seen just how large a source of wealth the government can be through its funding of research and development. Furthermore, many state-backed institutions are historically a prerequisite for substantial wealth creation to take place at all.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
Put another way, public choice theory turned the Marxist theory of the state on its head. As opposed to wishing to free the masses from a state controlled by the capitalist elite, Buchanan wished to free the capitalist elite from a state controlled by the unruly masses.
Andrew Hartman, "The Master Class on the Make"
Buchanan proposed that Virginia could finesse the question of full compliance with Brown and avoid leaving the impression that the state wished to revert to crude Jim Crow standards of race privilege. Buchanan’s innovative solution was the introduction of school vouchers... On paper, at least, Buchanan was advocating a market-based, seemingly race-neutral policy solution. In effect, however, it allowed for the continued perpetuation of segregation. For example, Virginia’s Prince Edwards County shuttered its public schools in 1959 while doling out vouchers to students who attended private schools that only accepted white children. As a result, black children in Prince Edwards County went without formal education for more than five years.
Andrew Hartman, "The Master Class on the Make"
Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density.
Charles Stross, "Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire"