Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 51: Public Choice
Isidoro Mazza The economic analysis of cultural policy has traditionally focused on its ability to correct market failures, promote cultural progress and preserve and enhance historical heritage. The investigation has devoted relatively little attention to the political decision-making process and institutional issues. This resistance of the discipline to political economic analysis is particularly striking when we consider the prominent role that the government has in the cultural sector, even in those countries where its intervention may be relatively less pervasive (like the USA or UK). Moreover, it sets a sharp contrast with the huge proliferation of political economic studies, now common in virtually every area of economic research. This brief chapter cannot provide a survey of the political economic literature. It rather aims at giving a taste of what can be learnt from the advancements made by public choice theory in order to improve our understanding of cultural policy. Detailed and comprehensive analyses of the field are provided by Mueller (1997, 2003), Persson and Tabellini (2000), Rowley and Schneider (2008), Weingast and Wittman (2006). The public choice approach In line with standard welfare economics, a substantial number of studies on cultural policies assume that they are carried out by a fully informed, far-sighted and unelected planner pursuing the public interest. This hypothesis, although reassuring, represents a very strong simplification of reality. It is overly optimistic about information constraints, it does not provide a justification for the benevolence of the planner, and it disregards how politics and institutions may affect the...
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