Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
Chapter 1: Individual choice and collective choice: an overview
At a time of this writing, a second World Congress of the Public Choice Societies is in the offing. The decision of the executive boards of the North American, European and Japanese societies to convene another joint meeting of their memberships in 2012 is one indicator of the flourishing of the public choice research program. An even more encouraging sign is the sheer volume of literature that, at the dawn of the 21st century, confronts anyone who dares to attempt to survey the field within the covers of a single scholarly book. Fifty years after the publication of The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (Buchanan and Tullock 1962), rational choice approaches to the analysis of human behavior in non-market settings where choices are made collectively have gained widespread acceptance in economics, political science and, to lesser extents, in sociology and psychology. Several generations of researchers have by now been trained to begin the study of how people choose, with the assumption that every individual pursues his or her own self-interests, broadly defined, within given institutional constraints, that the same motives guide human action in both private and public domains.
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