August, 2004

How Much Benevolence Is Benevolence Enough? - Working Paper

  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Political agents in charge of policy under democracy confront a dilemma like that faced in 'stag hunt' games. The absence of an effective enforcement mechanism for punishing politicians who cater to special interests gives political agents strong reason to doubt the commitment of their fellow statesmen to the public welfare. As a result, even when policy makers are partially benevolent to the public, they are still led to cater to special interests and society fares no better than if politicians were strictly self-interested. Political agent benevolence is thus an all-or-nothing proposition. This working paper shows that unless benevolence is total, policy looks the same.