The ascent of public choice theory2, including the public choice society and its journal, is clearly one of the great success stories of post-war social and political theory. Nevertheless, to look at it from the point of view of philosophy poses a task of critical appraisal rather than uncritical applause. Public choice theory as interpreted here essentially forms an economic approach to politics and to public law (the most comprehensive presentation of this view being Mueller, 2003). Therefore I shall focus on the role of economics’ core assumption of opportunistically rational and selfish behavior in public choice. As shown in the first part, (1) the views expressed by some classics of philosophy are at the root of modern public choice theory. Beyond that, some of them should be taken seriously as systematic contributions to present discussions about public choice in general and the role of the basic behavioral assumption of the rational economic man in particular. (2) On the basis of the discussion of the first part, the second assesses the public choice account of constitutional democracy in terms of individual rational choice. Philosophically promising amendments from the “neo-classical repair shop” that might conceivably solve some of the “paradoxes” of the standard economic approach to constitutional democracy are discussed. (3) The third part summarizes and concludes what may be seen as a “philosopher cum economist’s” view of public choice.


Public Choice World Trade Center Voter Choice Public Choice Theory Folk Theorem 
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  • Hartmut Kliemt

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