September 15, 2008

How Do Rulers Choose? Dual Domains of Discretion in Political Decision Making

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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This paper investigates the factors that drive ruler decision making under democracy. By dividing politicians' actions into two distinct domains and exploring their compositions, this paper constructs a fuller and more realistic picture of politician decision making. In the non-discretionary domain, the politician's actions are clearly limited by voter desires; in the discretionary domain the politician is free to make choices as he chooses without voter repercussions.

Standard neoclassical models of political behavior suggest that when votes don't matter, monetary income drives ruler behavior. While monetary pursuit may explain some ruler decisions, it leaves many other observed choices unexplained. This paper's non-discretionary/discretionary dichotomy highlights the up-to-now neglected role that psychic income plays in explaining otherwise unexplained ruler decisions.

Read the article at the Association for Evolutionary Economics.

Citation (Chicago Style): Coyne, Christopher and Peter Leeson. "How Do Rulers Choose? Dual Domains of Discretion in Political Decision Making." Journal of Economic Issues XXLII, no. 3 (September 2008): 727-743.