New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz
Chapter 12: Informational Limits to Public Policy: Ignorance and the Jury Theorem
† Roger D. Congleton 1 PUBLIC CHOICE AND PUBLIC POLICY The positive, or scientiﬁc, strand of the public choice research program attempts to analyze how democratic institutions operate and the extent to which its various theories explain real democratic policy choices. It addresses such questions as: to what extent does electoral competition determine public policies? Are interest groups able to operate behind the scenes in a manner that distorts public policies away from those preferred by voters, and are there substantial resources invested in those activities? Are majoritarian outcomes dominated by institutional agenda setters, moderate voter interests, or chance? In addition to the positive literature, there is a normative literature that analyzes the quality of public policy decisions made and the institutions under which political competition takes place. Do the properties of democratic decision making imply that budgets and deﬁcits are too large or too small, too oriented toward special-interest groups, or too favorable to moderate voter interests to the detriment of others? Are there agency problems within the executive branch of government that legislative oversight fails to solve? How well do governmental agencies implement and enforce legislative decisions? Both these strands of the public choice literature focus attention on the institutional limits of political decision making within democracies. This chapter addresses a somewhat diﬀerent, although perhaps more fundamental, limitation of democratic policy making. Suppose that all the normative agency and stability problems analyzed by the mainstream public choice literature are solved with institutional reforms. How well would...
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