Public Goods, Redistribution and Rent Seeking

Public Goods, Redistribution and Rent Seeking

The Locke Institute series

Gordon Tullock

Gordon Tullock, eminent political economist and one of the founders of public choice, offers this new and fascinating look at how governments and externalities are linked. Economists frequently justify government as dealing with externalities, defined as benefits or costs that are generated as the result of an economic activity, but that do not accrue directly to those involved in the activity. In this original work, Gordon Tullock posits that government can also create externalities. In doing so, he looks at governmental activity that internalizes such externalities.

Chapter 1: Some Difficulties in the Existing Theory of Externalities

Gordon Tullock

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice


1. Some difficulties in the existing theory of externalities This book carries a title, which may puzzle many readers. Public goods, redistribution, and rent seeking do not seem to be closely enough related to fit together in one book. Further, public goods is a rather misleading name. I normally talk about externalities, rather than public goods. Externalities are the reason that we must have governments and in many cases they lead to discussion of specific government activities, which generate further externalities and hence require further governmental activity. Nevertheless, they are usually not discussed together, nor in general, are redistribution and rent seeking included under the same general heading. I hope to convince the reader that it is logical to talk about them in an integrated way. I shall, however, start with externalities without mentioning that the existence of poor people in the community was listed by Milton Friedman as generating something rather like an externality. That subject will be put off until we reach the redistribution part of the book where its connection with externalities will eventually be made clear. Further, the connection of both with rent seeking will be made clear. I therefore hope that the reader will be a little patient while I go through what he will probably think is a detour before reaching the main themes. What then is an ‘externality’? As the word implies it is something, which occurs as a sort of byproduct of any action. If I mow my lawn, the...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information