Peter Kahn

Recent Articles

The Flawed Vision: Deregulation and Public Choice

The theory of “public choice” tells us that the public cannot make intelligent choices about government. But deregulation is as much a choice as activism.

The 1980s were rich with extravagant claims about the superiority of markets and the incompetence of government to make economic decisions. After more than a decade of the experiment in deregulation, however, the reality seems far more complex than this stylized vision. The environmental problems and savings and loan failures that now confront us were not averted by dismantling activist government. Indeed, the case for abandoning government's role in the economy was never as strong as its advocates claimed. It is time, therefore, to think again about how government can realistically improve our national well-being. Support for the wave of deregulation that began in the 1970s came from liberal as well as conservative economists. But deregulation was pursued with single-minded vigor during the 1980s at least in part for ideological reasons. It embodied a political theory which justified the administration's distaste for activist government. That theory, called "public choice," was...