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The Public Critique of Welfare Economics: An Exploration

  • Timothy Besley
  • Stephen Coate

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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7083.pdf
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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
Note: PE
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  1. Fernandez, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1997. "Eudcation Finance Reform and Investment in Human Capital : Lessons from California," Working Papers 97-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . ""An Economic Model of Representative Democracy''," CARESS Working Papres 95-02, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  5. James Buchanan & Viktor Vanberg, 1988. "The politicization of market failure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 57(2), pages 101-113, May.
  6. Gene Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1994. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," NBER Working Papers 4877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  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. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinksi, 1995. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-01, McMaster University.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Miguel Gouveia, 1996. "The public sector and health care," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 329-349, July.
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