What do public choice economists believe?

Two researchers took a poll of public choice economists, defined as those who belong to the Public Choice Society, this includes 201 economists and 125 political scientists. The response rate was 29.6 percent, and here are some of the results:

1. Voters vote out of a sense of civic duty – 80 percent said yes. 54.5 percent said voting is rational.

2. Political rights and civil liberties promote economic growth – 79.8 percent said yes.

3. The size of government has grown due to the proliferation of special-interest groups – 67.8 percent said yes. When asked whether voters are the cause — my view — 53.8 percent said yes.

4. Bureaucrats are budget-maximizers – 65.9 percent said yes.

5. Government does more to protect and create monopoly power than it does to prevent it – 63.7 percent said yes.

6. Most politicians are solely office-seeking vote maximizers – 51.1 percent said yes.

7. Most government programs are driven by rent-seeking – 50.6 said yes.

Here is the source paper, by Jac Heckelman and Robert Whaples of Wake Forest.

The biggest mistake listed is #4, the view that bureaucrats budget maximize. Here is one survey of various critiques. Most generally, Congress and the President monitor the bureaucracy, which as a result pursues complex incentives, and responds to both carrots and sticks. Budget maximization is unlikely to result as a dominant motive. As I understand a talk I once had with Bill Niskanen, founder of the budget maximization hypothesis, even he has moved away from this theory.

And how is this for a striking comparison?

When you ask (a broader group of) economists whether markets, in the absence of transactions costs, achieve efficient outcomes, 57.1 percent say yes. This is itself odd, since I would interpret the proposition as a tautology, but it appears some people simply can’t bring themselves to praise the market. 70.3 percent of the public choice economists say yes, showing that this group has a stronger belief in markets. 22 percent of the surveyed political scientists say yes, showing a far greater skepticism about the market economy from those quarters.


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