Chapter 10: Generality and Minimalist Government
10. Generality and minimalist government 10.1 MAJORITARIAN CYCLING, RENT SEEKING AND THE GROWTH OF GOVERNMENT If, as John Rawls suggests, a constitutional democracy can be arranged so as to satisfy the principle of equal political participation it is also true that, absent a generality constraint, majoritarian democracy is congenial to discriminatory, resource-wasting rent seeking activity. This brute fact comes into focus once the romanticized view of politics is abandoned. While analytically convenient, neither the ‘bifurcated man’ nor the ‘benevolent despot’ has an empirical counterpart. On the one hand, there is no reason to suppose that man is narrowly self-interested in his market behavior, and other-regarding in his political behavior. On the other hand, the notion that ‘government’ can be modeled as a single entity seeking to maximize a supraindividualistic social welfare function denies both the reality of complex political processes and the ontological and other problems associated with the speciﬁcation of an externally deﬁned public good. Reduced to its essentials, majoritarian cycling and rent seeking are endemic to the conﬂictual or day-to-day political process. The irremediable fact is that objective features of observable reality facilitate the concentration of beneﬁts and the dispersion of costs which, in turn, underwrite the growth of government. Inter alia, bounded rationality, positive ex ante and ex post monitoring costs and opportunism shape a decision environment in which ‘special interests’ secure the discriminatory in-period and intergenerational transfers which, pari passu, imply an expansion of the size and scope of ‘government’. If the...
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