Public Choice Trailblazers versus the Tyranny of the Intellectual Establishment

  • Charles K. Rowley

Public choice–or the economics of politics–is a relatively new science located at the interface between economics and politics. It was founded during the late 1940s in a sequence of papers by Duncan Black, primarily focused on voting within committees and elections. Black died in 1991 without achieving full recognition as a Founding Father of the discipline.

In this paper, I suggest that leading United States neoclassical economists, both from saltwater and freshwater universities, have systematically ignored, downplayed, or distorted the scholarship of the public choice trailblazers, thereby slowing down the impact of public choice ideas on the intellectual mainstream. Because of the radical nature of public choice thinking, its trailblazers ran head on into the tyranny of the intellectual establishment, as reflected by four highly prestigious Nobel Prize winning economists, namely Paul Samuelson, Kenneth Arrow, George Stigler and Gary Becker. I explore the conflict in the context of four episodes in the development of Public Choice ideas: Cycling under the rule of simple majority voting, the burden of the national debt, interest-group theory, and rent-seeking and the efficiency of government legislation.


Interest Group Public Choice Public Debt Social Welfare Function Private Market 
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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

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

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