How Government Works: Exploring the Economics of Politics

Jan 28, 2005


Dr. Bruce Yandle, Ph.D. 
Interim Dean, College of Business and Behavioral Science
Clemson University 

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"If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made."-- Otto Von Bismarck

It is no secret to veteran Congressional staff that governing can be a chaotic and complex experience. It is often difficult to understand the incentives in the political process or assess the actual outcomes of Congressional decisions.

The Economics of Politics will use an economic lens to analyze various aspects of governing institutions and evaluate how economic incentives influence government action. This “big picture” perspective will give participants unique insights into legislator behavior, voting incentives, and the regulatory process, all of which are essential for predicting, measuring, and achieving beneficial policy results.

By developing an economic framework that explores political decision-making, this course will help prepare Congressional staffers to better address the following problems:

  • Why has the U.S. traditionally experienced low voter turnout? Given recent elections, do individual votes count more than ever before?
  • What economic and political challenges do regulators face when implementing public policy? Is there a way to alleviate these difficulties?
  • According to economic theory, which kinds of interest groups are likely to be most successful at influencing public policy?  How do they do it?  How has this dynamic changed over the years?

Seminar participants will leave with a clearer understanding of what factors promote participation in the electoral process, the incentives that policymakers face in developing legislation, and how economic insights can put government action into perspective.

Mercatus Center programs are open to all full-time, professional Congressional, agency, and Library of Congress staff.  Interns and non-agency fellows are not invited.