Constitutional Economics and Public Institutions
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Constitutional Economics and Public Institutions

Edited by Francisco Cabrillo and Miguel A. Puchades-Navarro

This extensive book explores in detail a wide range of topics within the public choice and constitutional political economy tradition, providing a comprehensive overview of current work across the field.
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Chapter 18: The optimal Babel: an economic framework for the analysis of dynamic language rights

Bengt-Arne Wickström


Language is certainly the most important means of communication in all human societies. At the same time, language is one of the most important aspects of an individual’s personality, as well as of its social and cultural identity. These two aspects of language often find themselves in conflict with one another. On the one hand, network externality properties of the communication aspect imply that the greater is the number of speakers of a certain language, the more useful is that language in communication; taking this to the extreme, it would be efficient to have only one single language for communication purposes. Balancing this tendency is the desire of many individuals to preserve their language as a marker of identity. In a static perspective, language, like talents and other personal characteristics, can be seen as part of the definition, or initial endowment, of the individual.

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