February 5, 2023 

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The study of public choice reflects differing political views from both conservatives and liberals. It was primarily developed from a more conservative political view, highlighting the inefficiencies of government. However, more those with more liberal political views have also contributed to public choice.
Public choice, like other areas of economic analysis, is affected by alternative political points of view. This study emerged from a largely conservative political perspective, a view that considers government the problem rather than the solution. Government failures highlighted by public choice are offered as a qualification and counterbalance to the more liberal market failures.

To illustrate the politics of public choice, consider the Shady Valley Committee for the Historical Preservation of Footwear, which is reflective of the general public. It has members with different wants and needs, likes and dislikes. Geraldine Constance Kennsington, sister of Winston Smythe Kennsington III, is a member of the social elite, with a heart of gold and an eye towards improving the plight of the working class. Hector Hamilton is a hard working farmer who values individualism and self reliance.

Sherman Weatherspoon, a licensed electrician, is a former anti-war, pro-environment, campus activist who continues to champion environmental issues. Vance Thurgood, son of current Shady Valley Mayor Victor Thurgood, has plans to be future Mayor of Shady Valley en route to the state legislature, the Governorship, Congress, and the Presidency. Rochelle Roddingstern, a housewife and mother of three, is an avid golfer who enjoys all forms of community functions, especially committee work.

Then, of course, there is Roland Nottingham, a retired businessman who has taken up "complaining" as his second profession.

Two Views

Differences among the committee members also surface in political views, and is an important consideration for any government body. Most political views fall on the conservative-liberal political spectrum.
  • Conservative: This is a political view on the right side of the political spectrum that favors: (1) limited government, (2) extensive reliance on markets, (3) strong national defense, (4) protection and promotion of existing cultural ideals and beliefs, and (5) economic rewards predominately based on productive efforts. Conservatives tend to come from the upper ranks of the income spectrum, with extensive ownership of and control over resources, especially land and capital.

  • Liberal: This is a political view on the left side of the political spectrum that favors: (1) paternalistic government, (2) correction of market failure with government intervention, (3) equal opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, age, gender, ethnic origin, or planet of origin, (4) redistribution of income and wealth, and (5) extensive regulation and control by government. Liberals tend to come from the lower ranks of the income spectrum, with limited ownership of and control over resources, often only labor.
On this conservative-liberal political spectrum, the committee members represent a range of views. Hector Hamilton is quite conservative and Sherman Weatherspoon is extremely liberal. Geraldine Constance Kennsington, in spite of her wealth, learns toward the liberal side of the spectrum and Rochelle Roddingstern edges to the conservative side. Vance Thurgood walks the fine line of a moderate and Roland Nottingham bounces from one end to the other just so that he can be against whatever anyone else is for.

Enter Stage Right

Differing political views are not only important for government bodies, they are also important for the study of public choice. The study of public choice emerged from a more conservative political perspective. The conservative view from the right leans toward less government and more markets. In contrast, the liberal view from the left leans toward more government and less markets.

The liberal view has long championed the need for government intervention to correct the imperfections of market failures. The study of public choice is effectively a counter argument that points to why and how governments are also imperfect and actually might be worse than the market failures they seek to correct.

As such, the study of public choice offers a number of policy recommendations that are also championed by political conservatives. Policy recommendations such as term limits, line item veto, sunset laws, and citizen controls are also promoted by conservatives. Many of the public choice policy recommendations not only address government inefficiencies but also tend to limit government intervention in the economy.

The Left Weighs In

Although the study of public choice might be largely the brainchild of the conservative right, economists from the left have also made contributions and provided support. This arises because, politics aside, public choice identifies essential principles about how the government sector operates. While the conservative right might use these principles to argue that the best government is the least government, the liberal left might use them to identify the most effective means of government intervention to address market failures.

How the principles of public choice are used is an application of normative economics and depends on political views. However, identification of these principles is positive economics and transcends political ideology.


Recommended Citation:

PUBLIC CHOICE POLITICS, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2023. [Accessed: February 5, 2023].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | public choice | median voter principle | logrolling | voting paradox | government failures | rational ignorance | rational abstention | voting rules | special interest groups | political game |

Or For A Little Background...

     | political views | liberal | conservative | market failures | government functions | public finance | efficiency | public sector | private sector | utility maximization | market efficiency | fifth rule of imperfection | seven economic rules |

And For Further Study...

     | political entrepreneurs | capture theory of regulation | rent seeking | Tiebout hypothesis | principal-agent problem | government bureaucracies |

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