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EconTalk Podcast on “Economics and Public Administration” and More

Summary:
Last November I gave the Presidential address to the Southern Economic Association annual meetings in Tampa, Florida.  The theme of my talk was "Economics and Public Administration" and in some sense one important take away from my talk is that the realm of public administration begins where the possibility of economic calculation ends. This isn't a theme new to me, it was actually stated explicitly by Ludwig von Mises, and implicitly recognized by Richard Musgrave and inspired the work of Charles Tiebout. But that is a different story and for a different time, though anyone curious should look at the work of John Singleton on "Sorting Tiebout".   The conundrum this creates in public economics led folks like Wicksell to think seriously about the principles of just taxation and the

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Last November I gave the Presidential address to the Southern Economic Association annual meetings in Tampa, Florida.  The theme of my talk was "Economics and Public Administration" and in some sense one important take away from my talk is that the realm of public administration begins where the possibility of economic calculation ends. This isn't a theme new to me, it was actually stated explicitly by Ludwig von Mises, and implicitly recognized by Richard Musgrave and inspired the work of Charles Tiebout. But that is a different story and for a different time, though anyone curious should look at the work of John Singleton on "Sorting Tiebout".  

The conundrum this creates in public economics led folks like Wicksell to think seriously about the principles of just taxation and the articulation of the "benefit principle" and led others to worry deeply about demand revelation in public goods as well as governmental structure of responsibilities between local, state and federal.  These questions occupied the research program of my teachers such as James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, as well as those thinkers who I studied in depth throughout my career such as Vincent and Elinor Ostrom.   In addition, the question of the scale and scope of governmental activities has been a major part of my own teaching and research efforts in the field of comparative economic systems and the political economy of economies in transition, development economics, and the political economy of crises.  How do we build resilient political and economic systems that respond to the needs of the citizens who constitute those systems?  How can the democratic principles of self-governance be cultivated and sustained in a world of imperfect human beings interacting in an setting defined by imperfect institutions?

Russ Roberts and I had the opportunity to discuss my address and other issues on his EconTalk podcast.  As always, talking with Russ about economic ideas is just a wonderful experience, and I hope the listeners found it as enjoyable as I certainly did.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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