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 12: What, if Anything, Should We Do?

Gordon Tullock

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


On the whole the world seems to be in pretty good shape today. Do we need to consider possible improvements? I would not be surprised if the reader answers that question with a firm ‘no’. I am however by nature a reformer and so I should like to consider both difficulties with the present world and what we can do about them. Starting with foreign policy, the United States has just won a minor war, but ended up with trouble with guerillas. We also are currently disliked by the intellectual community practically everywhere. One would think that the Saddam Hussein regime would have no defenders, but while no one except his Minister of Misinformation and a few corrupt ministers defended that regime, there are many people who say that he did not have weapons of mass destruction. Since the elimination of such weapons was one of the reasons given by the American government for eliminating Saddam, even people who do not like him and are pleased that he is now in captivity, are critical of the American policy. I suspect all of this is simply a reflection of the latent antiAmericanism of many European intellectuals together with the anti-Bushism of many American intellectuals. They now have an excuse for stronger dislike. There is little or nothing we can do about this cast of mind, but it does not seem very dangerous. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ As long as the...

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