Behavioral public choice: the next subfield in economics

Jane Galt writes:

The post below also applies to behavioural economics, which the left
seems to believe is a magical proof of the benevolence of government
intervention, because after all, people are stupid, so they need the
government to protect them from themselves.  My take is a little subtler
than that:

1)  People are often stupid
2)  Bureaucrats are the same stupid people, with bad incentives.

There are few subfields in economics that have not been fleshed out with every possible combination of mechanisms, but this is one of them.  Yes, it is hard to come up with generalizable results about the psychological and behavioral biases of bureaucrats, but that hasn’t stopped many other areas in economics (like, um…behavioral economics) from taking off.  In fifteen years someone will write a JEL survey on Behavioral Public Choice, and you will regret not having written at least one of the early papers in the field.

I might add that Behavioral Public Choice gives us a better sense of when government programs actually work.  When morale is high, many people in government will "feel they matter," even if they do not, and do a very good job.  So Behavioral Public Choice is not just government-bashing, although there is a place for that too.  Behavioral factors also help account for why corruption becomes the norm in some settings but not others; psychological propensities are one way to narrow the set of possible equilibria.


Comments for this post are closed