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Economic and Political Solutions to Social Problems: The Case of Second-hand Smoke in Enclosed Public Places


  • John Meadowcroft


This article utilises a case study of the problem of second-hand smoke in enclosed public places to examine economic and political solutions to social problems. The responses of economic actors to this problem are examined via review of a number of pre-existing case studies of private arrangements in bars and restaurants prior to the introduction of smoking bans. The responses of political actors are examined via a study of the legislative process that led to the ban on smoking in enclosed public places introduced in England in 2007. This empirical evidence supports the view that economic decision-making leads to a plurality of different accommodations of different preferences, suggestive of inter-subjective learning, whereas political decision-making leads to exclusive, all-or-nothing solutions indicative of an adversarial approach to decision-making and the imposition of one group's preferences on the whole population.

Suggested Citation

  • John Meadowcroft, 2011. "Economic and Political Solutions to Social Problems: The Case of Second-hand Smoke in Enclosed Public Places," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(2), pages 233-248.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:23:y:2011:i:2:p:233-248
    DOI: 10.1080/09538259.2011.561559

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