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The Public Critique of Welfare Economics: An Exploration

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  • Timothy Besley
  • Stephen Coate

Abstract

The welfare economic method for analyzing the case for government intervention is often criticized for ignoring the political determination of policies. While many economists accept the thrust of this critique, exactly when and how political determination interferes with a welfare economic analysis is not well understood. This paper explores the logic of the critique in a specific context, demonstrating how political determination of policy affects the case for government intervention. We show that one form of intervention is likely to have an impact on others through the political process. These spillover effects may even provide a justification for interventions that the welfare economic approach would reject.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7083.

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Date of creation: Apr 1999
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Publication status: published as Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. " On the Public Choice Critique of Welfare Economics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 114(3-4), pages 253-73, March.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7083

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  1. Gene Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1994. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," NBER Working Papers 4877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Miguel Gouveia, 1996. "The public sector and health care," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 329-349, July.
  3. Fernández, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1999. "Education finance reform and investment in human capital: lessons from California," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 327-350, December.
  4. Osborne, Martin J & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96, February.
  5. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  6. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," Penn CARESS Working Papers ecf70d639d700dba5327ab0c8, Penn Economics Department.
  7. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1997. "Lobbying and Welfare in a Representative Democracy - (Now published in 'Review of Economic Studies', 68 (2001), pp.67-82.)," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series /1997/334, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  8. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  9. Greenwald, Bruce C & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-64, May.
  10. James Buchanan & Viktor Vanberg, 1988. "The politicization of market failure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 57(2), pages 101-113, May.
  11. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1996. "Public Provision of Private Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 57-84, February.
  12. Laffond G. & Laslier J. F. & Le Breton M., 1993. "The Bipartisan Set of a Tournament Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 182-201, January.
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