Principled Agents?: The Political Economy of Good Government

Paperback | September 27, 2007

byTimothy Besley

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What is good government? Why do some governments fail ? How do you implement political accountability in practice? What incentives do you need to put in place to ensure that politicians and public servants act in the public interest and not their own? These questions and many more areaddressed in Timothy Besley's intriguing Lindahl lectures. Economic analyses of government usually divide into two broad camps. One which emphasizes government as a force for public good that can regulate markets, distribute resources and generally work towards improving the lives of its citizens.The other sees government as driven by private interests, susceptible to those with the power to influence its decisions and failing to incentivize its officials to act for the greater public good. This book adopts a middle way between the two extremes, the Publius approach, which recognizes thepotential for government to act for the public good but also accepts the fact that things often go wrong. It shares the view that there are certain institutional preconditions for effective government but then proceed to examine exactly what those preconditions are. Timothy Besley emphasises that itis not just about designing an appropriate institutional framework but also about understanding the way incentives work and the process by which the political class is selected.

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What is good government? Why do some governments fail ? How do you implement political accountability in practice? What incentives do you need to put in place to ensure that politicians and public servants act in the public interest and not their own? These questions and many more areaddressed in Timothy Besley's intriguing Lindahl lec...

Timothy Besley is Professor of Economics at the LSE and Director of the Suntory Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) at the LSE. He is also a Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). He has acted as Co-Editor of the American Economic...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.79 inPublished:September 27, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199283915

ISBN - 13:9780199283910

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Table of Contents

1 Competing Views of GovernmentThe issuesThis bookBackgroundEconomic Policy MakingPolitical EconomyIncentives and Selection in PoliticsConcluding Comments2 The Anatomy of Government FailureIntroductionThree Notions of Government FailureThe Basic ModelGovernment FailureDemocratic Political FailuresA Dynamic ModelGovernment Failure in the Dynamic ModelResponses to Political FailureConcluding Comments3 Political Agency and AccountabilityIntroductionElements of Political Agency ModelsThe Baseline ModelExtensionsDiscussionConcluding Comments4 Political Agency and Public FinanceIntroductionThe ModelThree ScenariosImplicationsRestraining GovernmentDebt and DeficitsGovernments versus NGOsCompetenceConclusions

Editorial Reviews

`'Tim Besley demonstrates how to analyze political agency in the intellectual middle ground left open in between the optimism of the traditional welfare-economics approach, and the pessimism of the traditional public-choice approach. The key to good government is institution design- in thebest Federalist tradition- to improve incentives in policymaking and selection to public office. Quite simply, a great book by a great economist.''Torsten Persson, Director of the Institute for International Economic Studies