978-0-262-23134-3 / 9780262231343

Markets or Governments: Choosing Between Imperfect Alternatives (A RAND Corporation Research Study)


Publisher:MIT Press



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About the book:

Economic studies historically have either extolled the virtues of perfect markets or decried the market's shortcomings, proposing that governments correct market failure. This book proposes as a counterweight to these views a theory of nonmarket failure, and examines in great detail the shortcomings of government efforts to replace or to regulate markets. It is an unusually thorough analysis that can be used to make more systematic comparisons between markets and governments and to arrive at more intelligent choices between them.After reviewing the existing theory of market shortcomings, Wolf develops a parallel framework for analyzing the shortcomings of government, elaborating the inherent characteristics of government operations and the problems they present. He then considers how these predictable types of nonmarket failure can be taken into account in improving the formulation of public policy. And he compares market and nonmarket alternatives, both in their theoretical and empirical aspects.Wolf concludes that, while both markets and governments have inherent shortcomings, and the choice between them is never a pure one (real-world situations always involve some combination of the two alternatives), markets do a better job than governments. They are more efficient according to both static and dynamic criteria. With respect to equity and other non-efficiency considerations, however, both markets and governments have strengths and weaknesses. Finally, Wolf points out that government can play an important role in improving and extending the functioning of markets. And, perhaps most controversially, he argues that market forces themselves can play an important role in improving thefunctioning of government. They can reduce the incidence of nonmarket failure by injecting market incentives into government operations.Charles Wolf, Jr. is Dean of the RAND Graduate School of Policy Studies and director of the RAND Corporation's Research Program in International Economic Policy. He was chairman of RAND's Economics Department for 12 years, and has written widely in the fields of economics, defense policy, and foreign policy. A RAND Corporation Research Study.

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