The Elgar Companion to Public Choice
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The Elgar Companion to Public Choice

Edited by William F. Shughart II and Laura Razzolini

This authoritative and encyclopaedic reference work provides a thorough account of the public choice approach to economics and politics. The Companion breaks new ground by joining together the most important issues in the field in a single comprehensive volume. It contains state-of-the-art discussions of both old and contemporary problems, including new work by the founding fathers as well as contributions by a new generation of younger scholars.  
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Chapter 22: The politics of government growth

Roger D. Congleton


Roger D. Congleton 1 The scope of governance Fundamentally, government is the organization that governs: that creates and enforces the laws within a particular geographic territory. The range of what may be governed within a particular territory is very broad, and extends well beyond the basic civil and criminal codes of conduct that first come to mind. Regulations limit the range of goods that can be produced and sold, the hours that can be worked, and the wages that can be paid. Tax laws determine the portion of earned income that employees are allowed to keep, and the portion of sales revenues and profits that merchants may retain. Beyond the laws that determine how economic resources may be used and what claims individuals may have on them are laws that define life and death, marriage and divorce, parental rights and obligations, and even the bounds of proper public and private intimacy. Perhaps even more potentially intrusive are rules that mandate particular types of public education or genetic screening. Such rules may, in principle, attempt to determine the kinds of human beings that reside within a government’s jurisdiction in an even more fundamental way than efforts to regulate immigration and emigration do. The potential scope of governmental rulemaking and rule enforcement extends even beyond the human species. Rulemaking includes efforts to regulate nature as well as humanity. Legislation may reroute streams, drain swamps, create forests, promote the interests of some species over others, attempt to control the composition of...

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