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 6: Some Biological Problems

Gordon Tullock

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


The reader has no doubt so far felt more or less at home with the previous chapters since they deal with behavior, which is not too far distant from his own. He no doubt makes contributions to charities, may contribute to the church, and occasionally feels called upon to contribute to a fund to assist people in some distant disaster. If there is an earthquake in Turkey, a flood in Venezuela, or famine in Ethiopia, many Americans certainly including at least some of the readers of this book, will make voluntary contributions to the victims. There are indeed special organizations that do nothing except solicit such donations and then expend them, wisely, we hope. The reader also no doubt believes in the theory of evolution. Even most churchgoers accept the general process of natural selection. I doubt the reader who has read thus far realizes that there is an apparent and obvious contradiction between these two parts of his psyche. Evolution selects not for niceness, but for producing the maximum number of descendants. If you make a contribution instead of spending the money to improve the education or health of your son, daughter, or grandchildren you reduce the likely number of your descendants. Natural selection should, over time, eliminate your particular family in favor of a more selfish, family-oriented, hereditary line. Since the reader no doubt makes contributions to various charities and favors his government taxing him for other charitable payments not to his children, he may be puzzled...

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