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Government Failure: A Primer in Public Choice Paperback – May 15, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The neglect of public-choice analysis is unfortunate, but thanks to the repeated failure of modern government, that can't last forever. -- Roger Fontaine in The Washington Times on July 16, 2002

With Wall Street now all but begging for government action, Government Failure comes across as contrarian at best. But the -- Mark H. Rodeffer in NationalJournal.com on July 25, 2002

With Wall Street now all but begging for government action, Government Failure comes across as contrarian at best. But the -- NationalJournal.com

About the Author

Gordon Tullock is a professor of law and economics at George Mason University and has over 300 published works to his credit. A founder of the public choice theory of economics, Tullock resides in Virginia.Arthur Seldon is a founder of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. Gordon L. Brady is a senior research scholar at the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 185 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute (May 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930865201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930865204
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #946,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Lotfinia on August 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Since this is a book written by three authors separately, I shall discuss each part on its own, but first a few general remarks.
My biggest gripe is that the primary topic is not "public choice" per se, but rather "rent-seeking" with some discussion about externalities and so forth. While the discussion is illuminating and generally crisp and comprehensible, the over-use of the term "public choice analyis" proved annoying: Hardly a page went by without "public choice analyis," sometimes twice in the same sentence.
The general thrust of the text is that, however well-intentioned, no government can sustain a vibrant and diverse welfare-state over the long-term. Entrenched bureaucracies simply can't cope with the vagaries and varieties of human desires. Only the free market can hope to provide for the panoply of individuals' interests.
Part I: A concise, lucid, introduction to the theory of public choice. Professor Tullock has a definitely "small-government" mentality (which I share), but his discussion is still even-handed. The sole problem I have is that the few tables and graphs he employs are completely unitelligible to me. Fortunately, they're not essential, as his writing should be clear enough. The most important topics are rent-seeking and log-rolling, the former of which is the topic most treated by the co-authors. Also of interest is the discussion about bureaucracies.
Part II: A far ranging, perhaps wandering, discussion of the application of rent-seeking to American regulatory policy. Brady writes with a slightly more fervent tone than does Tullock, with a clear but tempered opinion of the roles lawyers, regulators, etc.
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Format: Paperback
Collaboratively written by American economists Gordon Tullock, Gordon Brady, and British economist Arthur Seldon, Government Failure: A Primer In Public Choice is a cold, unforgiving look at governmental economic policies, ranging from how American special interest groups lobby reap enormous and destructive favors, to the manifold disasters that have come from British governmental interventions in the economy. A caution about he concentration of power promoted by the European Union rounds out this stark, scholarly, and persuasive treatise. Also available in hardcover (193086521X..,), Government Failure is strongly recommended reading for students of Economics and Political Science.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm entirely sympathetic to the ideas of Public Choice Theory from my other reading.
However, I did not find these ideas to be well presented in this book.
The first problem is the different styles of the 3 authors:
Tullock has a sketchy meandering style. This is not a comprehensive overview. He digresses into apologetics for how preliminary many of his conclusions are. His presentation of crucial concepts is not as clear or as compelling as it deserves to be. He fails to address many obvious counter arguments.
Brady has the opposite problem from sketchy: He spends far more time than necessary in his chapter on internet regulation in presenting the technical weeds of internet history.
Seldon is the best writer of the three, presenting well structured and engaging ideas. Some of his non-essential historical comments (Lincoln) are wrong headed as other reviewers have observed.

Since one on the Chapters is titled Bureaucracy, I was stunned that no reference is made to von Mises' legendary "Bureaucracy" (1944). I took the opportunity to finally read it (free at the mises.org site).
Wow! what a difference! Mises is compelling, comprehensive, cogent, well structured, erudite and convincing. His historical references span all cultures and eras. In one paragraph he demolishes Keynesian bureaucracy more brilliantly than I've seen anywhere. Hat's off to Mises. Shame on these 3 for ignoring him.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with many libertarian ideas but this book is not very good. Poorly written, narrow in perspective, and without much traction in the field--this book is not worth the time. Read Thomas Sowell instead.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great book to get the reader started into the Public Choice branch of economics and politics. It is a must read for people looking to jump into the much more complicated books on public choice.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bought this for class. It worked well. It is well-written in an easy manner. Glad to have bought this product and recommend this. @eplusq
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