Table of Contents

Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

New Thinking in Political Economy series

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.

Chapter 12: Informational Limits to Public Policy: Ignorance and the Jury Theorem

Roger D. Congleton

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

Extract

† 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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