Political Equilibrium: A Delicate Balance

Springer Science & Business Media
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Peter C. Ordeshook and Kenneth A. Shepsle If the inaugural date of modern economics is set at 1776 with the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, then the analytical tradition in the study of politics is not even a decade younger, commencing nine years later with the publication of the Marquis de Condorcet's Essai sur l'application de l'analyse iz la probabilite des decisions rendues iz la pluralite des voix. The parallel, however, stops there for, unlike Smith and other classical economists who laid an intel lectual foundation upon which a century of cumulative scientific research pro ceeded, analytical political science suffered fits and starts. Condorcet, himself, acknowledges the earlier work (predating the Essai by some fourteen years) of Borda and, from time to time during the nineteenth century, their contributions were rediscovered by Dodgson, Nanson, and other political philosophers and arithmeticians. But, by century's end, there was nothing in political science to compare to the grand edifice of general equilibrium theory in neoclassical eco nomics. Despite roots traversing two centuries, then, the analytical study of poli tics is a twentieth-century affair. The initial inspiration and insight of Condorcet was seized upon just after World War II by Duncan Black, who wrote several papers on the equilibrium properties of majority rule in specific contexts (Black, 1948a, b). He expanded upon these themes in his now deservedly famous monograph, The Theory of xi PREFACE xii Committees and Elections, and the lesser-known essay with R.A.
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Publisher
Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
Dec 6, 2012
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Pages
210
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ISBN
9789400973800
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
Political Science / History & Theory
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This content is DRM protected.
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Arye L. Hillman There has been much economic theorizing directed at providing the politician with guidance in the design of policies that will amend market outcomes in ways that achieve specified efficiency or equity objectives. It has been common practice in economic models to portray the politician who implements the policy recommendations as a mechanistic individual who behaves as would a benevolent dictator to maximize a prespecified conception of social welfare or the utility of a representative consumer. The self-interest and discretion that is attributed to firms and consumers as optimizing agents is absent from the motives of such a politician. Economic policy choice is thereby depoliticized. How well depoliticized economic theory fares in explaining or predicting economic policy choice depends naturally enough upon how politicized is the economic system in which economic and political agents function. The papers in this volume recognize that politicians may exercise sufficient discretion so as not to behave mechanistically in correcting market inefficiencies or in pursuit of a somehow specified just income distribution. Since politicians are viewed as self-interested optimizing agents, just as are utility-maximizing consumers and profit-maximizing producers, the choice of economic policies is politicized. Coverage is provided of a broad spectrum of economic policy choice where markets and politicians interact. Section I is concerned with policy determination in western market economies, Section II with the introduction of markets into economies in transition from socialism, and Section III with international transactions.
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