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Public Choice and Constitutional Political Economy

  • Charles K. Rowley

Public choice – or the economics of politics – is a relatively new science located at the interface between economics and politics (Rowley 1993, Mueller 1997, Shughart and Razzolini 2001). It was founded in 1948 by Duncan Black, who died in 1991 without ever achieving full recognition as the Founding Father of the discipline (Tullock 1991). Its practitioners seek to understand and to predict the behavior of political markets by utilizing the analytical techniques of economics, most notably the rational choice postulate, in the modeling of non-market decision-making behavior.

Public choice thus defined, is a positive science concerned with what is or what conditionally might be. Its dedicated journal is Public Choice, introduced by Gordon Tullock in 1966 and now ranked among the thirty most important journals in social science, worldwide. Its intellectual home is The Center for Study of Public Choice, now located in The James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy at George Mason University in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The public choice research program was launched in 1948 by Duncan Black’s paper on the rationale of group decision-making. This paper demonstrated that, under certain conditions, at most one motion is capable of securing a simple majority over every other motion. Specifically, if voter preferences are singlepeaked over a single-dimensional issue space, a unique equilibrium exists in the motion most preferred by the median voter. For Black (1948), this result was the political science counterpart of the competitive market equilibrium in his own discipline of economics. However, Black was by no means convinced that the median voter theorem would hold in practice. His paper clearly identifies conditions in which majority voting would cycle across pair-wise choices.

Keywords

Public Choice Median Voter Rent Seek Voter Preference Political Equilibrium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles K. Rowley
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Locke InstituteFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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