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Deficits, Debt, And Democracy

Wrestling with Tragedy on the Fiscal Commons
Richard E. Wagner, Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics, Economics Department, George Mason University, US
This timely book reveals that the budget deficits and accumulating debts that plague modern democracies reflect a clash between two rationalities of governance: one of private property and one of common property. The clashing of these rationalities at various places in society creates forms of societal tectonics that play out through budgeting. The book demonstrates that while this clash is an inherent feature of democratic political economy, it can nonetheless be limited through embracing once again a constitution of liberty.
Extent: 208 pp
Hardback Price: £67.00 Online: £60.30
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978 0 85793 459 8
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: £21.00 Online: £16.80
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978 1 78100 705 1
Availability: In Stock
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Public Choice Theory
  • Public Finance
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Public Choice
This timely book reveals that the budget deficits and accumulating debts that plague modern democracies reflect a clash between two rationalities of governance: one of private property and one of common property. The clashing of these rationalities at various places in society creates forms of societal tectonics that play out through budgeting. The book demonstrates that while this clash is an inherent feature of democratic political economy, it can nonetheless be limited through embracing once again a constitution of liberty.

Not all commons settings have tragic outcomes, of course, but tragic outcomes loom large in democratic processes because they entail conflict between two very different forms of substantive rationality; the political and market rationalities. These are both orders that contain interactions among participants, but the institutional frameworks that govern those interactions differ, generating democratic budgetary tragedies. Those tragedies, moreover, are inherent in the conflict between the different rationalities and so cannot be eliminated. They can, as this book argues, be reduced by restoring a constitution of liberty in place of the constitution of control that has taken shape throughout the west over the past century.

Economists interested in public finance, public policy and political economy along with scholars of political science, public administration, law and political philosophy will find this book intriguing.
With Wagner's book, we now have a theoretical ice pick to pierce through the obvious outcomes on the surface to get a glimpse at the processes behind it.'
– Wolf von Laer, Journal of the History of Economic Thought

‘Richard Wagner’s De?cits, Debt, and Democracy: Wrestling with Tragedy on the Fiscal Commons is essentially a sequel to his 2007 book, Fiscal Sociology and the Theory of Public Finance. . . Wagner’s framework merits wide attention. Specialists in public choice or public ?nance should put both De?cits, Debt and Democracy and Fiscal Sociology at the top of their reading lists. Wagner’s framework could shed light on a great many questions beyond public ?nance, leading one to hope that this book is but one sequel in an ongoing franchise.’
– Adam Martin, Zentralblatt MATH
Contents: Preface 1. Budgeting: The Elusive Quest for Fiscal Responsibility 2. Budgeting and Political Economy: A Theoretical Framework 3. Budget Deficits, Ricardian Equivalence, and Macro–Micro Supervenience 4. Property Rights, Societal Tectonics, and the Fiscal Commons 5. Parliamentary Assemblies as Peculiar Market Bazaars 6. Taxation, Fiscal Politics, and Political Pricing 7. Regulation as Alternative Taxation 8. Public Finance for a Constitution of Liberty Bibliography Index