Public choice

Public choice, or public choice theory, is "the use of economic tools to deal with traditional problems of political science".[1] Its content includes the study of political behavior. In political science, it is the subset of positive political theory that studies self-interested agents (voters, politicians, bureaucrats) and their interactions, which can be represented in a number of ways – using (for example) standard constrained utility maximization, game theory, or decision theory.[1] It is the origin and intellectual foundation of contemporary work in political economy.[2]

Public choice analysis has roots in positive analysis ("what is") but is often used for normative purposes ("what ought to be") in order to identify a problem or to suggest improvements to constitutional rules (i.e., constitutional economics).[1][3][4]

Public choice theory is also closely related to social choice theory, a mathematical approach to aggregation of individual interests, welfares, or votes.[5] Much early work had aspects of both, and both fields use the tools of economics and game theory. Since voter behavior influences the behavior of public officials, public-choice theory often uses results from social-choice theory. General treatments of public choice may also be classified under public economics.[6]

Public choice, building upon economic theory, has some core tenets that are largely adhered to. The first is the use of the individual as the common decision unit. Due to this there is no decision made by an aggregate whole. Rather, decisions are made by the combined choices of the individuals. The second is the use of markets in the political system, which was argued to be a return to true economics.[7] The final is the self-interested nature of all individuals within the political system. However, as Buchanan and Tullock argued, "the ultimate defense of the economic-individualist behavioral assumption must be empirical...The only final test of a model lies in its ability to assist in understanding real phenomena" [8]