Schools of Thought in Classical Liberalism, Part 3: Public Choice

Schools of Thought in Classical Liberalism, Part 3: Public Choice

What is the proper role of government and how can it be limited? Dr. Nigel Ashford continues his series on classical liberalism with a discussion of public choice.

Public choice theory argues two points: 1) that rational people would mutually agree upon limited government, also known as a “social contract” and 2) that all people, including politicians, are primarily motivated by their own self-interest. Public choice theorists believe that politicians have a vested interest in growing government well beyond the social contract.

So what should the role of government be? Public choice advocates typically argue that government should only protect individual rights, provide public goods, and address externalities like pollution. It is not the role of the government to provide for a welfare state, which goes beyond the social contract. How can we limit government? How does government grow so much beyond what the social contract dictates? Dr. Ashford uses real-life examples, such as agriculture subsidies, to give the public choice perspective on these questions.

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