The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, Second Edition
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The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, Second Edition

Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak

The Companion lays out a comprehensive history of the field and, in five additional parts, it explores public choice contributions to the study of the origins of the state, the organization of political activity, the analysis of decision-making in non-market institutions, the examination of tribal governance and to modeling and predicting the behavior of international organizations and transnational terrorism.
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Chapter 27: International organizations

Roland Vaubel


The public choice approach to international organizations and agreements differs from much of the political science literature on international relations because it rejects the unitary actor model. In public choice theory, the actors are individuals (such as voters, politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists), not countries or states. As individuals, they may be members of collective organizations. Within these organizations, they may take collective decisions according to the rules which they or others have agreed upon. The actors are guided by interests rather than lofty ideals. Their personal interests lead them to join an organization and participate in its affairs. Moreover, as members, they share the interest of maintaining and expanding the organization. However, these are not interests of the organization but the common interests of its members. International agreements are not concluded by states but by politicians – members of the participating governments and, in most cases, the majority of parliamentarians. International organizations are established by the same groups of actors but, in addition, they introduce a new class of actors: international bureaucrats.

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