I address public choice from the perspective of economics in this essay. The “perspective of economics” is taken to mean the application of the principles of maximizing behavior and demand and supply to institutions and behavior in the political world. I begin with a discussion of this familiar methodology, and then proceed to illustrate how the principles of maximizing behavior and demand and supply can be applied to the various component parts of a representative democracy, including the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, as well as interest groups, bureaucracy, and voters. This will be in no sense a review of the literature. The point is to illustrate how economic principles can be applied to political behavior in each of the above contexts. In each case a single and simple illustration will be given. In such a way, the reader can decide whether the economic perspective really adds anything to the understanding of political behavior over and above alternative analyses. For example, do we learn more about a legislator’s behavior with an assumption that he acts in his self-interest or in the “public interest?” Finally, although many of the illustrations are related to U.S. political processes, I endeavor in each case to generalize the discussion to an international setting.


Interest Group Public Choice Wealth Transfer Electoral College Electoral Vote 
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  • Robert D. Tollison

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