Fiscal Sociology and the Theory of Public Finance

Fiscal Sociology and the Theory of Public Finance

An Exploratory Essay

New Thinking in Political Economy series

Richard E. Wagner

This book advances a social-theoretic treatment of public finance, which contrasts with the typical treatment of government as an agent of intervention into a market economy. To start, Richard Wagner construes government not as an agent but as a polycentric process of interaction, just as is a market economy. The theory of markets and the theory of public finance are thus construed as complementary components of a broader endeavor of social theorizing, with both seeking to provide insight into the emergence of generally coordinated relationships within society. The author places analytical focus on emergent processes of development rather than on states of equilibrium, and with much of that development set in motion by conflict among people and their plans.

Chapter 4: Political Entrepreneurship within the Ecology of Enterprises

Richard E. Wagner

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


A society contains a configuration of enterprises, some established through the market square and others established through the public square. The historical record contains instances where these configurations have been relatively static. Indeed, it is possible to imagine a completely static configuration that simply reproduces itself. A society that conformed to this configuration would be a static, caste-based society. The pattern of relationship denoted by caste may not be explicitly recognized and acknowledged by the members of society, but that society would have a caste-like character all the same. A corporate executive whose husband is a physician will be replaced by a daughter and son who subsequently occupy those same positions. If the parents live in a house of 5000 square feet on a hill with a lovely view, their children who replace them will live the same way. An auto mechanic and her husband, a waiter, will be replaced in those capacities by their children. If the parents live in a house of 1200 square feet without a view in a noisy, dusty and congested part of town, so will their children. Parents who associate with people within the environs of a country club will have children who form their associations the same way. Parents who associate on street corners will have children who associate the same way. Such a static society would be described as one where people accept their place and position within society because that is just the way things are. The...

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