This is cross-posted from the Philosophers & Gamblers Philosophy Group(https://www.meetup.com/Philosophers-and-Gamblers/events/272548857/?isFirstPublish=true). It is a member of the Virtual Philosophy Network.
Required Reading: https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~lebelp/DownsEcThDemocJPE1957.pdf
“IN SPITE of the tremendous importance of government decisions in
every phase of economic life, economic theorists have never successfully integrated government with private decision-makers in a single general equilibrium theory. Instead they have treated government action as an exogenous variable, determined by political considerations that lie outside the purview of economics. This view is really a carry-over from the classical premise that the private sector is a self-regulating
mechanism and that any government action beyond maintenance of law and order is “interference” with it rather than an intrinsic part of it.
However, it does not unduly distort reality to state that most welfare economists and many public finance theorists implicitly assume that
the “proper” function of government is to maximize social welfare. Insofar as they face the problem of government decision-making at all, they nearly all subscribe to some approximation of this normative rule.
In light of this reasoning, any attempt to construct a theory of government action without discussing the motives of those who run the government must be regarded as inconsistent with the main body of economic analysis. Every such attempt fails to face the fact that governments are concrete institutions run by men, because it deals with them on a purely normative level. As a result, these attempts can never lead to an integration of government with other decision-makers in a general equilibrium theory. Such integration demands a positive approach that explains how the governors are led to act by their own selfish motives. In the following sections, I present a model of