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the political sphere

Public choice scholars, such as Gary Anderson, Mark Crain, William Shughart, and Robert Tollison, have not neglected the study of the other major institutions of democratic governance: the president or chief executive officer and the “independent” judiciary. They model the occupants of these positions as self-interested people who, by exercising the power to veto bills, on the one hand, and by ruling on the constitutionality of laws, on the other, add stability to democratic decision-making processes and increase the durability of the favors granted to special-interest groups and, hence, the amounts the groups are willing to pay for them.

The Lessons of Public Choice

One key conclusion of public choice is that changing the identities of the people who hold public office will not produce major changes in policy outcomes. Electing better people will not, by itself, lead to much better government. Adopting the assumption that all individuals, be they voters, politicians, or bureaucrats, are motivated more by self-interest than by public interest evokes a Madisonian perspective on the problems of democratic governance. Like that founding father of the American constitutional republic, public choice recognizes that men are not angels and focuses on the importance of the institutional rules under which people pursue their own objectives. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself”