Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
A key insight from economics is that individuals respond to the incentives they face. Public choice postulates that this logic applies not only to individuals in their private actions, but also in their actions as public sector employees or elected representatives. In both the private marketplace and in the public sector, the incentives individuals face are sometimes aligned with actions that are in the best interest of society, leading to efficient and socially beneficial outcomes. In other cases, however, certain incentives can lead individuals to pursue actions that are personally beneficial but socially unproductive and inefficient. In this chapter, we examine two such cases where existing political incentives distort the behavior of public sector agents. In the first case, we assess how the behavior of decision-makers within public sector agencies is shaped by the process of congressional oversight (which is part of the literature on ‘congressional dominance theory’), and in the second we discuss how the behavior of elected officials is shaped by the timing of elections.
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