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Institutions, Constitutions and Public Policies: A Public Choice Overview

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Sproule-Jones, Mark
Date: 1982
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3813
Sector: Theory
Subject(s): constitutional analysis
institutional analysis
public choice
policy analysis
public goods and bads
common pool resources--theory
Abstract: (From pp. 1-2): "Public choice is a comparative approach to the study of public policies. It is centrally concerned with comparing different ways of providing public policies to individual citizens. It is also an economic approach to the study of public goods, externalities and common pools to compare how and why public policies differ. It is one of the objectives of this chapter to outline and illustrate the public choice approach to comparative policy analysis. "This chapter also has a second objective. One of the major concepts used in public choice analysis is that called institutional arrangements, which is a term used to describe the laws (statute and common), the government regulations, and the number and type of organizations (government and private) that may be involved in providing public policies. These institutional arrangements are ultimately established and maintained by so-called constitutional arrangements that determine who may exercise governmental authority, what limits (if any) are placed on this authority, and what kinds of agreements must exist between government decision makers before laws, regulations, and organizations are changed. The constitutional arrangements may all be written down in a single document, but more are contained within a number of documents (like the British North America Act, the Treaty of Westminster, the treaties between Native Indians and the British Crown before Canada became independent). Public choice is interested in seeing what differences both institutional arrangements and also constitutional arrangements make in providing public policies. This chapter will outline and illustrate such differences. "A third objective exists for this chapter. Unlike many other contributions to the book, the public choice approach is normative in cast. It is interested in determining what kinds of institutional arrangements and constitutional arrangements work better for citizens. It argues that laws, regulations, government and private organizations, as well as constitutional arrangements that do not perform in the interests of citizens should be reformed. The structure of government-the composition of Parliament, for example- should be modified in favour of a different structure if necessary. Institutional and constitutional arrangements that exist in Canada at this time are of no value in themselves; they are only of value if they wok better than others in providing the policies that individual citizens prefer. The third objective of the chapter is to outline and illustrate the criteria used in public choice for assessing performance."

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