An excellent follow up to yesterday’s inauguration spectacle, Don B offers this insightful quote of the day on the topic of public choice economics. Reprinted in full because the quote and Don’s commentary on it are so wonderful:
is from page 37 of Paul Heyne’s lovely 2000 booklet, A Student’s Guide to Economics:
The fundamental insight of public choice economics is the fundamental assumption of all economic theory: Social phenomena, including political phenomena, emerge from the actions and interactions of individuals who are choosing in response to expected benefits and costs to themselves. It is a a serious if common mistake to suppose that government, simply by virtue of its duty, cares for the public interest.
And as Kenneth Arrow, Jim Buchanan, Mancur Olson, Charlie Plott, Joseph Schumpeter, Gordon Tullock, and many other scholars have shown, it is an equally serious mistake (perhaps one even more common than the error identified above by Paul Heyne) to suppose that the results of majoritarian voting reveal and enforce anything that can be called – without an astonishingly large number of qualifications and restrictions that are nearly always disregarded in run-of-the-mill celebrations of democracy – “the will of the people.”