公共選擇理論 ~ Public Choice Theory

公共選擇理論
作者:史杰輝
編輯:紀壽惠

所謂公共選擇理論就是用經濟學的原則分析政府任務的行動。經濟學的原則是什麽呢?嚴格地說,人既是理性,又是利己主義的。舉例來說,無論政治人物所提出的政策如何理想,他們大部分都是為了鞏固他們自己的勢力範圍。大多數的政治學家跟經濟學家則爲政治人物的行爲不是利己主義,而是急公好義,因此他們沒法子準確預言政治人物的行為。進一步來説,專家學者高估政治可以解決社會跟經濟問題的可能性。

何以見得政治人物的行爲跟公益有衝突呢?不說別的國家,就拿我國,美國,做例子。因為美國保障言論自由和出版自由,所以人民可以公開談論或批評政府的行動,再加上代表都是公民間接選舉出來的,因此政府應該沒有餘地濫用權力。實際上並非如此。無數政治人物把政權當作賺錢和維持權力的工具。他們提出對捐獻者和選舉人有利的政策。捐獻者包括大規模的公司跟工會,它們之所以介入政治是因為政策對他們有很大的影響。退休之後許多政治人物在捐獻者的公司得到工作,然後就開始代表公司對外做公關。政治人物接受賄賂,也可以說他們之間彼此利用,相互受惠。

人民爲什麽不抗議這個情況?一方面是因爲政府權力的範圍一年比一年大,不要說人民,就是立法人員也沒有時間詳細地分析他們自己通過的法律。這樣一來,媒體對政府的監督不夠,新聞讀者受時間的限制,政治人物的責任一天不如一天。另一方面是即使人民了解政策對他們不利,因為他們有工作、家庭、興趣等等,總是認為不值得浪費他們的時間去抗議。因爲人民很多,所以無論受益者從不公平法律獲得多少利益,每個受害者的損失還是相當少。比方説,如果某個政策把一升牛奶只漲了十塊錢,雖然薄利,可是因為多銷,所以牛奶公司的利益仍很大,這種情形大部分的美國人都沒注意到。一直到人民無法生存的時候才聚集抗議。因為美國人不景氣所遭遇的困苦不如中東窮人的嚴重,所以兩者抗議的規模和激烈程度有所不同。

跟著經濟的原則,政治人物、公司和人民的行為都有理性,可是這個情況對一般的人不利。總而言之,研究公共選擇理論的學者提醒民眾要監督政府的政策。

Public Choice Theory
Writer: James Smyth
Editor: Ji Shou-hui

Public choice theory is the use of economic principles to analyze the actions of politicians. The basic principle of economics is that people are rational and self-interested. No matter what reasoning drives government policies, for instance, almost all of these policies also consolidate the authority of government itself. Since most political scientists and economists assume that politicians work for the public interest, not their own self-interest, these scholars cannot accurately predict the government’s behavior, and furthermore, they overestimate the state’s ability to solve social problems.

How could the government have a conflict of interest with the public good? We need only look to my own country, the United States of America. Because we guarantee freedoms of speech and the press, people can openly discuss and criticize the actions of the government. Furthermore, since representatives are elected by the people, they shouldn’t have the margin to abuse their authority. But they do. Countless officials use their positions to make money and preserve power. They push for policies that benefit their fiscal and electoral supporters. These donors include businesses and labor unions who participate in politics because policy has a huge influence on them. After retirement, many politicians go to work for their former donors as lobbyists representing the companies’ interests. Officials have a gentleman’s agreement to tolerate bribery because everyone benefits from the system.

Why don’t the citizens protest this state of affairs? One factor is that the scale of government grows year after year, such that even the legislators themselves don’t have time to rigorously analyze their own laws. The media don’t have the resources to oversee the government, either; newspaper readers only have so much time in their day, after all. Hence officials feel less and less responsibility. Another problem is that even if a citizen knows that a certain government policy hurts him, he often decides protesting it is not worth his time because he still has his own job, family, and personal interests to take care of. Given that there are many people in the country, each suffers only a little from each unfair law even if the damages to the citizenry are large as a whole. For example, if the state raises the price of milk 10 cents, the margin is small, but the volume is so large that dairy companies will reap huge benefits from the law without raising the hackles of the American people. People only protest when they can’t make a living any longer. Because the American economic recession doesn’t compare to the depth of Middle Eastern poverty, the current difference in scale between protests in these two regions is ginormous.

From an economic perspective, politicians, businesses, and citizens are all acting rationally, but the resulting circumstance is hurting the country. This is why public choice theorists are urging citizens to better scrutinize the state.

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One Comment on “公共選擇理論 ~ Public Choice Theory”

  1. james smyth Says:

    I’ve never heard of Public Choice Theory before. It seems it should be part of every high schooler’s curriculum, along with books and novels that frame the issues over the last few hundred years.
    Good work!


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