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 11: Monarchies and Dictatorships

Gordon Tullock

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


So far, we have dealt with various aspects of democratic governments. Most of the human race however has lived under undemocratic governments. Once again, most of these undemocratic governments have been monarchies or dictatorships. Note that ‘monarchies’ as used in this chapter involves kings or queens who actually do rule, not merely ceremonial figures like the present King of Sweden. Thus Gustavus Adolphus would be counted as a monarch for our purposes, but his present-day successor or the British Queen would not. In this chapter, I will distinguish between monarchs and dictators by the method of replacement when one dies or is by some other method removed from his position of power. As a norm, monarchy is hereditary while the dictatorship is held by someone who has seized it by force or political maneuvering. We tend to think of the replacement of a king by his eldest son as the norm. In Europe, where there is a sort of social hangover from Greece and Rome, kings had only one legal wife at a time and did not maintain a harem. Thus there was an obvious candidate in the eldest son. Of course the succession was frequently disputed. The Wars of the Roses in England were set off by such a succession dispute and ended with almost all of the potential heirs by blood, dead. Henry VII who took the throne by winning the battle of Bosworth Field, had only a feeble blood relationship with his predecessors. Nevertheless, he was a...

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