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Public Choice Interpretations of American Economic History

Public Choice Interpretations of American Economic History

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The chapters of this volume apply the tools of public choice theory to the types of questions which economic historians have traditionally addressed. By adding the insights of public choice economists to the traditional tools used to understand economic actors and institutions, the authors are able to provide fresh insights about many important issues of American history.

Each contribution analyzes an episode in American economic history within a public choice framework of rational maximization. Agents or interest groups are interpreted as either responding in predictable ways to economic incentives put in play by government policy or attempting to influence government policy. Public Choice Interpretations of American Economic History includes eightessays that examine:

- Why states contributed to the national government under the Articles of Confederation.
- The major nineteenth-century transitions in the source of state revenues away from fees and investments and toward the property tax, and from state to local government funding of infrastructure.
- Three economic failures from the American West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: overgrazing of the northern plains, despoliation of the Yellowstone Basin, and low productivity of Indian communal lands.
- The impact on trusts of state-level anti-trust activities and the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
- The economic and political determinants of state-level WPA spending by the federal government during the New Deal.
- Why New Deal agricultural policies under the AAA were politically successful, while industrial policies under the NRA were scrapped.
- The Interaction between Fed policies and banks' decisions about membership inthe Federal Reserve System in the period 1921--79.
- The influence of diversity among voters on states' decisions about how to regulate alcohol consumption in the decades after the end of prohibition.