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The Reason of Rules

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"suppose that a monopoly right is to be auctioned; whom will we predict to be the highest bidder? Surely we can presume that the person who intends to exploit the monopoly power most fully, the one for whom the expected profit is highest, will be among the highest bidders for the franchise. In the same way, positions of political power will tend to attract those persons who place higher values on the possession of such power. These persons will tend to be the highest bidders in the allocation of political offices. Economists have only recently become interested in the welfare properties of the political bidding process, under the rubric of "rent seeking." In the rent-seeking literature, the focus of attention has been on the net resource wastage involved. Here we voice a different concern. Is there any presumption that political rent seeking will ultimately allocate offices to the "best" persons? Is there not the overwhelming presumption that offices will be secured by those who value power most highly and who seek to use such power of discretion in the furtherance of their personal projects, be these moral or otherwise? Genuine public-interest motivations may exist and may even be widespread, but are these motivations sufficiently passionate to stimulate people to fight for political office, to compete with those whose passions include the desire to wield power over others? If procedures are such that power is allocated to those who value it most highly, then there is some presumption that those who might want the values of all to weigh in political decisions will be driven out. Since the demand for discretionary power is highest for those individuals who desire social outcomes different from outcomes that perhaps most others would choose, political institutions will be populated by individuals whose interests will conflict with those of ordinary citizens. Citizens will need to plan for their institutional life accordingly."


The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy

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