Table of Contents

The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, Second Edition

The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, Second Edition

Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak

The Companion lays out a comprehensive history of the field and, in five additional parts, it explores public choice contributions to the study of the origins of the state, the organization of political activity, the analysis of decision-making in non-market institutions, the examination of tribal governance and to modeling and predicting the behavior of international organizations and transnational terrorism.

Chapter 9: Legislatures

Nicole V. Crain and W. Mark Crain

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


Legislatures are a pillar of representative democracy. Everyone past grade school knows roughly what a legislature is: an assembly whose members are elected to represent citizens’ interests in government decision-making. And every school child in America learns that the legislature constitutes one of the three branches of the federal government. Likewise all 50 American state governments have a legislature. Globally, we cannot identify a democratic nation without a legislature. A legislature appears to be a minimal institutional requirement for a modern democratic nation, and probably a requirement for all but the smallest polities where direct democracy or a single elected official is sufficient. The purpose of this chapter is to illuminate features of legislatures that are not commonly emphasized in standard civics texts or in college-level political science courses. Such conventional treatments, in our view, are distressingly inadequate on a number of levels. For example, at best they offer only weak explanations for why public policies routinely deviate from those preferred by a majority of citizens. More than 70 percent of the respondents to most major opinion polls express disapproval when asked to evaluate the US Congress’s performance.

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