Bo Rothstein: The quality of government: corruption, social trust, and inequality in international perspective
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Bo Rothstein has written a useful book for anyone who thinks that institutions matter for economic growth and development. His focus is primarily on what he calls the “quality of government” which he defines as a system in which economic policies are applied by impartial government officials. Rothstein argues that good governance is when civil servants are “guided by the public interest instead of by self interest or loyalty to any group, party, or ‘special interest’ ”. That is, the bureaucrats’ own interests should be disregarded as they apply the law or policy.
Rothstein accepts the standard caricature of public choice that public officials “maximize their self interest”, and argues that his impartiality idea is in “sharp contrast” with public choice (22). But public choice, except in its most naïve incarnations, has never argued that self interest is the sole motivation for public servants. Public choice theory says only that personal incentives influence the behavior of public...