Eamonn Butler, Public Choice: A Primer London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 2012
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The area of economics that empirically describes and explains the actions of the key players in government—the voters, politicians, bureaucrats, special interest groups, and lobbyists—is called Public Choice Theory (hereafter “PCT”) or Public Choice Economics. It is has been a flourishing and fertile branch of economics for well over a half-century. But philosophers have tended to overlook this important domain of research.
With the appearance of Eamonn Butler’s delightful new introductory survey of the field, there is no longer any excuse for this neglect. Butler gives a concise, clear and enlightening account of the major concepts and findings of the subject.
Butler starts the book by defining PCT as more an approach to political science than economics: it is the application of economic analysis to political behavior. As he puts it, PCT “…uses the methods and tools of economics to explore how politics and government works”.1In this lies its very pronounced tendency to unsettle...