Tag Archives: iea

Public Choice: A Primer


The good folks at the London-based Institute for Economic Affairs have just released an excellent book by Eammon Butler, Public Choice: A Primer. You can order a copy or download a free PDF version at this link. Public choice is essentially applying the economic way of thinking to politics; a volume in the collected works ofpublic choice founding father Gordon Tullock is even titled The Economics of Politics.

Most economics is about private decision-making by individuals or firms. Politicians, regulators, and voters make much more public choices, hence the name of the field. Many people think that politicians and regulators are different from other people. Instead of acting selfishly, they act in the public interest. Public choice depends on the controversial claim that people are people; government acts selfishly, too.

Politicians want to be re-elected. Bureaucrats want to enlarge their mission and budget, and to get that next promotion. These very human concerns affect the decisions they make and how they do their jobs. In short, just as there is market failure, there is government failure. That’s why Butler’s new primer should be required reading for everyone who works on Capitol Hill. If it doesn’t cause a wave of resignations, staffers would at least have a more realistic perception of how their colleagues behave, as well as the people who vote for them.

Other good public choice primers include William Mitchell’s Beyond Politics and Gordon Tullock, Arthur Seldon, and Gordon Brady’s Government Failure (free PDF)

Making Hayek More Approachable

Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty is a work of great depth. It’s one of those books that one doesn’t read, so much as study. But the extra effort brings ample rewards. Still, it isn’t the most approachable book. For one, its length requires a commitment that many readers aren’t willing to make. For another, Hayek’s verbose prose style does not make for easy reading.

Fortunately, the good folks at IEA have just released Eugene Miller’s summary of all the arguments Hayek makes in The Constitution of Liberty. You can download it for free here. Besides being a good companion to read alongside the original, it looks easier for more casual readers to digest.

IEA has given similar treatments to some of Hayek’s other works. Take a look if you’re new to Hayek, or would like a refresher course on works you’ve already read.