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Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.
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Chapter 3: Affective Public Choice

Frans van Winden


3. 1 Affective public choice Frans van Winden INTRODUCTION The economic theory of political decision making, also labeled ‘public choice’ or ‘political economics’, has seen an impressive development over recent decades. It is no longer (strongly) contested that the motivations of political agents deciding on government policies are not fundamentally different from those driving economic behavior in the private sector. But, what are these motivations, more precisely? Even allowing for the presence of people that are not only promoting their own narrow selfish interests, the following phenomena are puzzling: 1. mass protests and mass voting even if those involved run a serious risk of losing their lives (recently in places such as Iraq, Ukraine, Lebanon and Belorussia); the explosion of riots in the Paris suburbs; the socio-political impact of terrorism; suicide bombing; the maintenance of a costly monarchy with related national rituals in full-blown democracies where the monarch has no formal power; and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev removing his shoe and banging it on the table during a UN conference in 1960, calling Filipino delegate Lorenzo Sumulong ‘a jerk, a stooge and lackey of imperialism’. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. The first two phenomena are puzzling if one assumes, as in the theory of collective action, that political participation is the outcome of a rational cost–benefit analysis. Why would people risk their lives in that case? And why all of a sudden these French riots, without any clear changes in the individual economic benefits...

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