[Paleopsych] Roger D. Congelton: The political economy of Gordon Tullock

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Roger D. Congelton: The political economy of Gordon Tullock*
Public Choice 121:213-238, 2004

[This is a superb appreciation of one of the Founding Fathers of Public 
Choice theory, and it no mean introduction to the field, since Gordon's 
interests were so broad. I loved this in particular: "It bears noting that 
Tullock invented or at least helped to invent the rent-seeking model of 
con­.ict (1967/1974). A social scientist who was more interested in 
maximizing fame than in understanding the world would never have raised a 
question that reduces the importance of one of his own major 
contributions, even were such doubts to arise. Fame and fortune tend to go 
to those whose ideas are "bigger" than initially thought, not "smaller." 
However, a proper scientist is a truth seeker (The Organization of 
Inquiry, 1966: 49), and Tullock is in this sense, if not in the 
conventional sense, a very proper social scientist."

[Gordon, I think, loved more than anything else, to make unsettling if not 
outrageous assertions in conversation. Back in graduate school, when I 
first met him, I was arguing foreign policy with him. He was dubious and 
asked me a question. I changed my view, and he asked me another question. 
This went on until he told me, "You have now gone full circle."

[Of all the people I have ever met, only Steve Sniegoski comes close in 
challenging my opinions. Both of them have first opinions of their own, 
which in the case of Gordon, as the article shows, are not always so 
apparent. I'm even further removed myself, since it is leaving no Premise 
Unchecked (that is, the Premise of my conversant) that is my forte, not 
persuasion itself.

[In my opinion, Gordon did not share the Nobel Prize with Jim Buchanan 
because he tweaked the nose of the Swedes with their welfare state, and 
who award the prize, too many times by demanding to know what they thought 
a "just" distribution of income looks like, as their underlying mood is 
not to achieve some fixed distribution but to have ever more 

[The world badly needs far more challengers like Gordon.]

[I call myself one of the Founding Sons of Public Choice theory, having 
studied under Gordon and Jim Buchanan in the early years at U.Va. I'm 
sending this also to a number of U.Va. people, so they can see what came 
out of it.

[Sorry about the ligatures, like <fi> showing up as periods. Adobe's PDF 
to TXT converter (starting with version 7) changes all these ligatures to 
a period, so I can't do a global search and replace. I do convert (at 
least I try to get them all) the various Microsoft smart characters to 
ASCII ", ', --, etc., as appropriate. Lynx, my text-only web browser does 
this now, except that in some cases, nothing, not even a space, remains. 
But it should be obvious what's what. Tables generally do not convert. 
Sometimes I have to remove page headers, sometimes not. And, too often, 
spaces are omitted. It can be quite time comsuming, so please forgive me 
if I didn't replace each ligature by hand. I sometimes also keep 
paragraphs together when interrupted with footnotes. I can generally send 
the PDFs to anyone who e-mails me asking for them.]

*Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 
22030, U.S.A.; e-mail: congleto at gmu.edu
Accepted 25 August 2003

The perspective on Tullock's work presented here is based partly on his 
proli.c writings and partly on numerous conversations with him over the 
course of several decades. He was kind enough to read through a previous 
draft, and the version presented here re.ects his comments and 
suggestions. Comments and suggestions received at the 2002 meeting of the 
Public Choice Society, and from James Buchanan, Charles Rowley, Robert 
Tollison, and an anonymous referee were also very helpful.

"Leaving aside the problem of the correctness of my answers, the fact 
remains that I have been unable to .nd any indications that scientists 
have asked the questions to which I address myself. The unwary might take 
this as proof that the problems are unimportant, but scientists, fully 
conscious of the importance of asking new questions, will not make this 
mistake." (Gordon Tullock, The Organization of Inquiry (1966: 3.)


It is fair to say that few public choice scholars have contributed to so 
many areas of public choice research as frequently or with as much insight 
as Gordon Tullock. Professor Tullock's work considers not only political 
and contractual relationships within a well-established legal order, but 
also ex­traordinary political behavior within rent-seeking societies, 
within .rms, at court, within communities at war, among those considering 
revolution, and among those emerging from or falling into anarchy. The 
result is an unusually complete political economy that includes theories 
of the origin of the state; theories of decision making within 
bureaucracy, dictatorship, democracy, and the courts; and within science 

It is also fair to say that Professor Tullock uses relatively simple tools 
to analyze these far-reaching topics. Indeed, it is the use of relatively 
simple tools that makes the broad scope of his work possible. All the 
principal actors in Tullock's analysis maximize expected net bene.ts in 
circumstances where bene.ts, costs, and probabilities are assumed to be 
known by the relevant de­cision makers with some accuracy. This is the 
core hypothesis of the rational choice approach to social science, and it 
is the rationale for the title of Brady and Tollison's (1994) very 
interesting collection of Tullock papers.

For the social scientist who uses the rational choice methodology, the 
re­search problem at hand is not to understand the complex chain of events 
that gave rise to unique personalities and historical moments, but rather 
to more fully appreciate the general features of the choice problems 
facing more or less similar actors at times when more or less routine 
decisions are made. By focusing on the general rather than the particular, 
a good deal of human behavior can be predicted within broad limits, 
without requiring intimate knowledge of the individuals or institutional 
settings of interest. Such an approach is commonplace within economics, 
where it has been very suc­cessfully applied to understand general 
features of decisions made by .rms and consumers, and is becoming more 
common within other social sciences where the rational choice methodology 
remains somewhat controversial.

Tullock's work is largely written for economists and the subset of 
political scientists who routinely use rational-choice models, and his 
analysis naturally uses that mode of reasoning and argument. What 
distinguishes Tullock's work from that of most other social scientists who 
use the rational choice approach is that, in spite of his use of 
reductionist tools, Tullock's work tends to be anti-reductionist rather 
than reductionist in nature.1 A good deal of Tullock's work uses simple 
models to demonstrate that the world is more complex than may have 
previously been appreciated.

It is partly the critical nature of his work that makes Tullock's world 
view dif.cult to summarize, as might also be said of much of Frank 
Knight's work. Tullock's more conventional work suggests that some 
arguments are more general than they appear and others less general than 
might be appreciated. To make these points, Tullock, like Knight, tends to 
focus sharply on neg­lected implications and discomforting facts. Unlike 
Knight, his arguments are usually very direct, and often simple appearing. 
Indeed, critics sometime suggest that Tullock's direct and informal prose 
implies super.ciality rather than a clear vision. However, a more 
sympathetic reading of Tullock's work asawhole discovers 
irreduciblecomplexity, rather than simplicity.

This complexity arises partly because his approach to political economy 
bears a closer relationship to work in law, history, or biology than it 
does to physics or astronomy, and much work within economics. Tullock was 
trained as a lawyer and reads widely in history. Both lawyers and 
historians are inclined to regard every case as somewhat unique and every 
argument as somewhat .awed. Both these propensities are evident in his 
work. It is also true that Professor Tullock enjoys pointing "the way," 
and "the way" seems to be a bit different in every paper and book. His 
published work, especially his books, often leaps from one innovative idea 
to the next without providing readers with a clear sense of the general 
lay of the intellectual landscape. Although many of Tullock's pieces can 
be accurately summarized in a few sentences (as tends to be true of much 
that is written by academic scholars) the world revealed by Professor 
Tullock's work as a whole is not nearly so easily condensed.

Complexity also arises because the aim of Tullock's work is often to 
stim­ulatenew research on issues and evidence largely neglected by the 
scholarly literature, rather than to completeor.nalizeexisting lines of 
research through careful integration and testing. To the extent that he 
succeeds with his enter­prise - and he often has - his efforts to blaze 
new trails stimulate further exploration by other scholars. For example, 
his work with James Buchanan on constitutional design (1962) has generated 
a substantial .eld of rational choice-based research on the positive and 
normative properties of alternative constitutional designs. His 
path-breaking paper on rent seeking (1967) was so original that it passed 
largely unnoticed for a decade, although it and sub­sequent work have 
since become widely praised for opening important new areas of research. 
His work on dictatorship (1974, 1987), which was almost a forbidden topic 
at the time that he .rst began working on it, has helped to launch 
important new research on non-democratic governance (Olson, 1993, 
Wintrobe, 1994). His editorial essays, "Ef.cient Rent-Seeking" and "Back 
to the Bog," have also encouraged a large body of new work on the 
equilibrium size of the rent-seeking industry and helped establish the new 
.eld of contest theory. The institutionally induced equilibrium literature 
pioneered by Wein­gast and Shepsle (1981) was developed partly in response 
to Tullock's "Why so Much Stability?" essay. His early work on vote 
trading (1959), the courts (1971, 1980), and bureaucracy (1965) also 
helped to establish new literatures.

The breadth of Tullock's political economy and the simplicity of its 
com­ponent arguments also re.ects his working style and interests. 
Professor Tullock is very quick, reads widely, and works rapidly. He 
dictates the ma­jority of his papers. And although his papers are revised 
before sending them off, he lacks the patience to polish them to the high 
gloss evident in the work of most prominent scholars. In Tullock's mind, 
it is the originality of the ideas and analysis that determines the value 
of a particular piece of research, rather than the elegance of the prose 
or the mathematical models used to com­municate its ideas. (To paraphrase 
McLuran, "the message is the message," rather than the "medium.") The 
result is a very large body of very creative and stimulating work, but 
also a body of work that could bene.t from just a bit more care at its 
various margins.2

If a major fault exists in that substantial body of research, it is that 
Tul­lock has not provided fellow travelers with a road map to his 
intellectual enterprise, as for example James Buchanan, Mancur Olson, and 
William Riker have. None of Tullock's hundreds of papers explains his 
overarching world view in detail, nor is there a single piece that 
attempts to integrate his many contributions into a coherent framework. 
The purpose of this essay is to provide such an intellectual road map. It 
directs attention to the easily neglected general themes, conclusions, and 
connections between Professor Tullock's many contributions to public 
choice. The aim of the essay is, thus, in a sense "non-Tullockian" insofar 
as it attempts to explain Tullock's com­plex and multifaceted world view 
with a few fundamental principles, rather than to probe for weaknesses or 
suggest new problems or interpretations of existing work. The present road 
map is organized as follows. Section 2 focuses on the methodological 
foundations of Tulluck's work, Section 3 sur­veys his broad research on 
political economy, and Section 4 summarizes the main argument and brie.y 
discusses some of Tullock's major contributions. Numerous quotes from 
Tullock's work are included in endnotes.


A.Methodology: Positivism without statistics

"We must be skeptical about each theory, but this does not mean that we 
must be skeptical about the existence of truth. In fact our skepticism is 
an illustration of our belief in truth. We doubt that our present theories 
are in fact true, and look for other theories which approach that goal 
more closely. Only if one believes in an objective truth will experimental 
evid­ence contrary to the predictions ‘disprove' the theory." (The 
Organization of Inquiry: 48)

Tullock's perspective on science and methodology, although implicit in 
much of his work, is most clearly developed in The Organization of Inquiry 
[1966]. The Organization of Inquiry applies the tools of rational 
choice-based social science to science, itself, in order to better 
understand how the scienti.c com­munity operates and why scienti.c 
discourse has been an engine of progress for the past two centuries. Such 
questions cannot be addressed without char­acterizing the aims and methods 
of science and scientists, and, thus, Tullock could not analyze the 
organization of inquiry without revealing his own vision of science, 
scienti.c progress, and proper methodology. The preface of The 
Organization of Inquiryacknowledges the in.uence of Karl Popper, Michael 
Polanyi, and Thomas Kuhn, and these in.uences are clearly evident in his 

Although Tullock's work is largely theoretical, he remains very interested 
in empirical evidence. A logical explanation that fails to explain key 
facts can be overturned by those facts even if the line of reasoning is 
completely self-consistent. That is to say, both the assumptions and 
predictions of a model should account for facts that are widely recognized 
by intelligent persons who read reputable newspapers and are familiar with 
world history. The world can "say" something about a theory, and a proper 
scientist should be prepared to hear what is said. He or she does this by 
remaining a bit skeptical about the merits of existing theories, no matter 
how well-stated or long-standing.4

His simultaneous skepticism and belief in the possibility of truth is 
clearly evident in his wide range of articles and comments critiquing the 
theor­ies and mistaken conclusions of other social scientists. For 
example, in a series of essays on "the bog" Tullock asks and re-asks those 
working in the rent-seeking literature to explain why the rent-seeking 
industry is so small? And, moreover, why is the rate of return on rent 
seeking evidently so much greater than the rate of return from other 
investments? It bears noting that Tullock invented or at least helped to 
invent the rent-seeking model of con­.ict (1967/1974). A social scientist 
who was more interested in maximizing fame than in understanding the world 
would never have raised a question that reduces the importance of one of 
his own major contributions, even were such doubts to arise. Fame and 
fortune tend to go to those whose ideas are "bigger" than initially 
thought, not "smaller." However, a proper scientist is a truth seeker (The 
Organization of Inquiry, 1966: 49), and Tullock is in this sense, if not 
in the conventional sense, a very proper social scientist.

In contrast to most academic scholars, Tullock argues that the scienti.c 
enterprise is not elitist. Science is accessible to non-experts. The facts 
do not respect titles, pedigrees, or even a history of scienti.c 
achievement. He suggests that essentially any area of science can be 
understood by intelligent outsiders who take the time to investigate them. 
Thus, every theory is open to examination by newcomers with a fresh eye as 
well as those with established reputations in particular .elds of 
research.5 Together Tullock's truth-oriented skepticism and nonelitism 
sheds consid­erable light on the broad domain in which Professor Tullock 
has read and written. A strong sense that "the truth" can be known by 
anyone who invests time and attention induces Tullock to read more widely 
and more critically than those inclined to defer to well-credentialed 
"experts." His positivism induces him to focus on modern scienti.c 
theories and historical facts rather than philosophical controversies. 
Because his extensive reading covers areas that are unfamiliar to his less 
widely read or more philosophical colleagues, he is able to use a wide 
range of historical facts and scienti.c theories to criticize existing 
theories and also as a source of puzzles and dilemmas to be addressed in 
new research. Together with his non-elitist view of science, his broad 
interest in the world induces him to think and write without re­gard to 
the disciplinary boundaries that constrain the thoughts of his more 
convention-bound colleagues.

B.Social science: How narrow and how rational is human nature?

"Every man is an individual with his own private ends and ambitions. He 
will only carry out assigned tasks if this proves the best way of 
attaining his own ends, and will make every effort to change the tasks so 
as to make them more in keeping with these objectives. A machine will 
carry out instructions given to it. A man is not so con.ned." 
(ThePoliticsofBureaucracy, 1966: 32)

Economists tend to view man as "a rational animal," by which various 
eco­nomists mean various things not uniformly agreed to, but nonetheless 
clearly distinct from the customary usage of the word "rational" by 
non-economists. For example, microeconomics texts normally introduce the 
notion of "ra­tionality" at the same time that they discuss preference 
orderings. Rational decision makers have transitive preference orderings. 
Game theorists and macroeconomists who model individual decision making 
through time con­sider a decision maker to have "rational expectations." A 
rational decision maker anticipates the consequences of his or her 
actions, and does so in a manner free of systematic mistakes of bias. (In 
this amended concept of ra­tionality, economists are returning to the use 
of the term "rational" in ordinary language.) The preference and 
informational meanings of the term rational are often commingled by modern 
economists so that rational individuals become characterized as persons 
having consistent and durable preferences and unbiased expectations. This 
very demanding de.nition of rationality is occasionally found in Tullock's 

However, in most cases, Tullock is unwilling to adopt the full rationality 
hypothesis. He argues, for example, that information problems exist that 
lead to systematic errors, especially within politics (1967, chs. 6-9). 
The existence of such information problems is grounded in his personal 
experience. If hu­man beliefs were always unbiased, it would be impossible 
to .nd instances in which large groups of people, especially 
professionals, have systematically mistaken views about anything. For 
those who have more than occasionally been persuaded by Professor Tullock 
to change their own views, or seen him launch a well-reasoned barrage on 
the views of thoughtful but confused col­leagues, it sometimes appears 
that the only economist whose expectations are untainted by wishful 
thinking is Gordon Tullock, himself.7 Tullock's value as a critic and 
curmudgeon is, itself, largely incompatible with the "rational 
expectations" usage of the term "rational."

Yet, it is partly because economists have failed to broadly apply the 
ra­tional choice paradigm that Tullock has achieved some notoriety among 
economists by reminding the profession of the limits of other 
motiva­tional theories; however, this is not because he believes that 
humans have one-dimensional objective functions.8

Tullock's view of man also incorporates a richer model of self interest 
than is included in most economic models. Although man is self-interested, 
his interests are often complex and context dependent.9 Consequently, 
Tullock rarely uses the simplest characterization of homoeconomicusas a 
narrow self-interested "wealth maximizer." For example, Tullock allows the 
possib­ility that a person's self-interest may be partly dependent on the 
welfare of others. Modest altruism and envy are at least weakly supported 
by evolution and therefore are likely to be present in human behavior.10 
The evidence, however, leads Tullock to conclude that such "broader" 
interests are less important than many believe. In the end, it is narrow 
self-interest-based ana­lyses that provide the surest model of human 
behavior and, therefore, for institutional reform.11

If Buchanan's views may be said to be similar to those of James Madison, 
it might be said that Tullock's view of man parallels those of George 
Washington.12 Washington once said that to expect "ordinary people to be 
in.uenced by any other principle but those of interest is to look for what 
never did and I fear never will happen," (Johnson, 1997: 186) and also 
that "few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder." The paradox in 
both cases is that neither men were themselves entirely motivated by 
narrow self-interest.

C.Conflict and prosperity: On the cost and generality of rent seeking

"Conflict" is to be expected in all situations in which transfers or 
redis­tribution occur, and in all situations in which problems of 
distribution arise. In general, it is rational for individuals to invest 
resources to either increase the transfers that they will receive or 
prevent redistributions away from them. Thus, any transactions involving 
distribution will lead to dir­ectly opposing resource investments and so 
to con.ict by our de.nition." (TheSocialDilemma,1974: 6)

Take a rational individual and place him in a setting that includes other 
indi­viduals in possession of scarce resources, and most economists will 
predict the emergence of trade. Economists are all familiar with the 
Edgeworth box, which provides a convincing illustration of mutual gains 
from exchange. Tul­lock would be inclined to predict con.ict. Scarcity 
implies that individuals cannot achieve all of their objectives and that 
essentially all individuals would be better off with additional resources; 
however, it does not imply that vol­untary exchange is the only method of 
accomplishing this. Unfortunately, the economist's prediction that 
unrealized gains will be realized through volun­tary exchange follows only 
in settings where changes in the distribution of resources can be 
accomplished onlythrough voluntary means. In the absence of well-enforced 
rights, the strong may simply take the "initial endowments" of the weak.13

Few modern political economists would disagree with such claims about 
con.ict in a setting of anarchy, once reminded of the importance of 
well-enforced property rights. However, 
example, lawful means are routinely used to change existing property 
rights assignments and the extent to which they are enforced - within 
legislatures and court proceedings. In ordinary markets, there is con.ict 
over the division of gains to trade and also in the efforts of .rms to 
increase market share through advertising and product innovation. In 
settled polities, con.ict is evident in the efforts of opposing special 
interest groups to persuade legis­latures to enact particular rules and 
regulations, and in the efforts of opposing candidates to win elective 
of.ce. In less lawful or settled settings, political and economic con.ict 
may imply theft and fraud, or bombs exploding and battles fought. Tullock 
often reminds us that con.ict is endemic to human existence.

Con.ict implies that resources are devoted to activities that reduce 
rather than increase the output of .nal goods and services. These 
"rent-seeking" losses cannot be entirely avoided, although the cost of 
con.ict can be re­duced by intelligent institutional design. For example, 
the cost of con.ict is reduced by institutional arrangements that 
encourage the accumulation of productive capital rather than investments 
in redistribution.14 It bears noting that Tullock's conclusion regarding 
the feasibility of institutional solutions is empirical rather than 
analytical. Modern game theory suggests that perfect institutions cannot 
be ruled out a priori - indeed for essentially any well-de.ned game of 
con.ict, it can be shown analytically that a suitable bond or punishment 
scheme can completely eliminate the losses from con.ict. As far as Tullock 
knows, however, there are no real world institutional arrangements that 
completely solve the problem of con.ict. What changes with institutions is 
the magnitude and type of con.ict that takes place. That is to say, 
con.ict appears to be the normal state of human affairs whether bound by 
institu­tions or not. Theoretical solutions evidently underrepresent the 
strategy sets available to persons in real historical settings.

3.Tullock's political economy

A. From the Hobbesian jungle to authoritarian government

"Let us make the simplest assumption of transition conditions from the 
jungle to one where there is an enforcement apparatus. Assume, then, a 
jungle in which there are some bands - like prides of lions - and that one 
of these bands succeeds in destroying or enslaving all of the others, and 
establishes .rm control. This control would, .rstly, lead to a 
considerable change in the income distribution in the jungle in that the 
members of the winning band would have much larger incomes and the losers 
would have lower incomes. It would be rational for the stronger members of 
the winning band to permit sizable improvements in the incomes of the 
weaker members at the expense of nonmembers of the band, simply in order 
to retain the support of these weak members. The cohesion of the new 
government would depend on suitable reward for all members." (Gor­don 
Tullock, "The Edge of the Jungle," in ExplorationsintheTheoryofAnarchy, 
1972: 70)

Tullock argues that government, itself, often emerges from con.ict. For 
ex­ample, Tullock suggests that autocracy is the most likely form of 
governance to emerge in real political settings. In this one might suppose 
that Tullock agrees with Hobbes rather than with Buchanan, but neither 
turns out to be the case. Tullock's theory of the origin of government is 
based on conquest and domination rather than social contract.

The theoretical and empirical importance of authoritarian regimes has led 
Tullock to devote substantial time and energy to analyzing the properties 
of this very common political institution. His analysis of autocracy 
implies that the rule of particular dictators tends to be short-lived, 
although autocratic institutions themselves tend to be very durable. 
Autocratic regimes have an inherent "stability problem" analogous to that 
associated with coalition polit­ics in democracies. Escape from anarchy 
does not imply the end of con.ict, as indirectly suggested by Hobbes.15

This is not to say that every dictatorship is overthrown. Tullock 
discusses a variety of methods by which dictators can decrease the 
probability of coup d'état by in-house rivals, most of which, by 
increasing the costs of conspiracy, also reduce the probability of a coup 
attempt being organized. For example, laws against treason should be 
aggressively enforced, rewards for providing the ruler(s) with creditable 
evidence of conspiracies should be high, com­missions rather than 
individuals should be given responsibility for as much as possible, and 
potential rivals should be exiled in a manner that reduces opportunities 
for acquiring support among elites (Autocracy,1987: Ch. 1 and 
TheSocialDilemma, 1974: Ch. 7). Nonetheless, the large personal advantage 
that successful conspirators expect to realize make conspiracies dif.cult 
to eliminate completely; consequently, coups do occur on a fairly regular 

The dictator's coalition problem implies that a particular autocrat's 
"term of of.ce" is likely to be ended by an internal overthrow, or coup 
d'état (Autocracy, 1987: 9), and this is widely observed (Biennen and van 
de Walle (1989).

However, the coalition problem does not apply to the institution of 
auto­cratic governance, itself. Centralized political power will not be 
given up easily, because political elites often share an interest in 
retaining autocratic forms of governance, even when they disagree about 
who should rule. Moreover, a well-informed autocrat can more easily 
subvert a popular revolt than a coup d'état. The same methods used to 
discourage palace coups also discourage popular revolts. Tullock argues 
that popular uprisings are far more dif.cult to organize than are palace 
coups, because the public-good problems that must be overcome are much 
larger. The individual advantages of participating in a popular uprising 
are very small relative to those obtained by members of a palace coup, 
although the aggregate bene.ts may be much larger. Being larger 
enterprises, revolutionary movements are also much easier to discover 
(Autocracy,1987: Ch. 3 and ThePoliticsofBureaucracy, 1966: 54). Together 
these imply that autocratic governmental institutions are more easily 
protected than is the tenure of a particular dictator.16 Tullock's 
analysis implies that democracy is a very unlikely form of gov­ernment, 
although not an impossible one. For example, Tullock notes that an 
internal overthrow engineered by elites may lead to democracy, as when an 
elected parliament or state assembly deposes a king or appointed governor, 
and it may well be the case that such transformations are broadly 
supported in the population as a whole (Autocracy,1987: 53-68). The 
evidence supports

Tullock's authoritarian prediction, insofar as autocracies have been far 
more common than democracies throughout recorded history.

B. Constitutional design

Given the historical rarity of democracy and Tullock's assessment of the 
like­lihood of democratic reform, it is somewhat surprising that Professor 
Tullock has devoted so much of his intellectual life to understanding how 
modern democracy operates and how it can be improved. The most likely 
explanation is that knowledge of one's local political circumstances tends 
to be valuable for scholars and non-scholars alike. Tullock, like most 
other public choice scholars, resides in a democratic polity. And this, in 
combination with the wider freedom available within democracies to engage 
in political research, has led him and most other public choice scholars 
to focus largely on the properties of democratic governance.17

When government policies are to be selected by a group, rather than 
im­posed by a dictator, the .rst collective choice that must be made is 
the method of collective choice itself. How should such constitutional 
decisions be made? Buchanan and Tullock point out in the 
CalculusofConsent(1962) that the design and selection of collective 
decision rules is a complex problem, but one that is amenable to analysis 
using rational choice models.18 For example, Buchanan and Tullock note 
that a wide variety of voting rules can be em­ployed by a group to make 
collective decisions and, moreover, that decision rules other than 
majority rule can be in the interest of essentially all citizens. The best 
decision rule depends on the problems being addressed collectively and 
also on the diversity of group interests.

Buchanan and Tullock also point out that, even in cases where majority 
rule is explicitly used and median voter outcomes emerge in the relevant 
elections, other institutional arrangements, such as bicameralism or 
single member districts, may imply that "majoritarian" legislative 
outcomes require substantially more or less than majority support from the 
electorate (CalculusofConsent: Chs. 15 and 16). In general, the menu of 
political constitutions includes a wide range of choices, and even 
majoritarian decisions are affected by the institutional setting in which 
voting takes place. In subsequent work, Tullock argues that a far better 
method of choice, the "Demand Revealing Procedure" (Tideman and Tullock, 
1976), would not rely on counting votes at all.19

C. Interest groups, vote trading, and coalition politics

On those occasions when collective decisions are made by majority rule, 
most economists assume that median voter interests tend to be advanced, 
partly be­cause the median voter model is so tractable.20 However, as 
Tullock has long argued, most voting models assume that voters make 
independent decisions about how to cast their votes.

Tullock (1959, 1970) points out that if vote trading (log rolling) is 
pos­sible, mutual gains from trade can sometimes be realized by 
coordinating votes - mutual gains that would otherwise be infeasible. For 
example, sup­pose there are three equal-sized groups of voters who care 
intensely about three separate large-scale projects that can only be 
.nanced by the central government, for example, building a dam, dredging a 
river, or constructing a bridge. Tullock demonstrates that it may be 
Pareto ef.cient to undertake all three projects, but the concentration of 
bene.ts within minorities can cause ordinary majority rule to reject all 
three projects. Vote trading in such instances potentially allows some or 
all of the unrealized gains from gov­ernment service to be realized.21 In 
such cases, rather than appealing to the median voter, Tullock notes that 
candidates may take positions that appeal to several distinct "special 
interest" minorities that together add up to a majority.

Direct vote trades are most feasible in relatively small number settings, 
as in legislatures, where continuous dealings allow informal exchanges of 
"favors" to be enforced. In large-scale elections, explicit vote trading 
is not likely to be a major factor in.uencing electoral outcomes, although 
what Tullock refers to as implicit log rolling may be. Figure 1 
illustrates the case in which extremist groups A and B join forces to 
obtain policy X over the wishes of moderate voters who prefer policy B.

Figure1. Implicit log rolling

Such implicit vote trading, unfortunately, tends to be associated with 
ma­joritarian decision cycles. That is to say, if implicit vote trading 
can make a difference, there tends not to be a median voter. For example, 
in Figure 1, note that pairwise votes among policies X, B, and Y would be 
as follows: X > B, but Y > Xand B > Y.

D. Bureaucracy

Once legislative decisions are reached, they are normally implemented by 
large government organizations referred to as bureaucracies. In some 
cases, implementation is simply a matter of executing directives from 
elected rep­resentatives. Activity A is to be of.cially opposed or 
encouraged, and the bureaucracy implements the policy by imposing penalty 
P or subsidy S on persons engaging in activity A. In other cases, the 
bureaucracy has discretion to develop the policies themselves or the 
methods by which services will be produced, as when police and .re 
departments organize the production of crime-and .re-controlling services. 
In still others, the agency may be able to develop the law itself - as 
within regulatory agencies. In all such cases, it is clear that the .nal 
disposition of public policy depends in part on the incentives of 
individuals who work in government agencies as well as those of elected 

In Tullock's view, the incentives within large public and private 
organ­izations are broadly similar, although they differ somewhat at the 
margin (PoliticsofBureaucracy, 1966). Both public and private 
bureaucracies have their own internal incentive structures that encourage 
various kinds of pro­ductive and unproductive activities by the 
individuals who work within them. These incentives in.uence both the 
performance of individuals within organizations and the array of outputs 
produced by their organizations.

Tullock argues that the importance of a particular organization's internal 
incentives relative to the external incentives of labor markets is 
determ­ined by the ability of individual bureaucrats to move between 
organizations. If every individual within a bureaucracy can costlessly 
change jobs, intra-organizational reward structures would be relatively 
unimportant for career advancement, and reputation in the wider community 
would largely determ­ine salaries. Alternatively, when it is dif.cult for 
persons to move between organizations, the internal structure of internal 
rewards and punishments be­comes an important determinant of individual 
salaries and perquisites, and, therefore, behavior (PoliticsofBureaucracy, 
1966: 10).

In such cases, large organizations will have some monopsony power with 
respect to their employees and internal incentives will largely determine 
employee performance on the job.

Economics predicts that monopsony power will affect salaries and other 
economic aspects of job contracts. However, the intra.rm relationships of 
interest in Tullock's analysis are political, rather than economic. The 
politi­cization of an organization's hierarchy creates a nonprice 
mechanism by which hierarchical organizations can solve their coordination 
and principal-agent problems. He argues that political aspects of 
relationships within large organizations can be readily observed and, to 
some extent, measured by "de­ference." The "deference" observed is 
predicted to vary with the extent of monopsony power that a given 
organization possesses.22 For example, in­sofar as mobility decreases with 
seniority, Tullock's analysis predicts that deference would increase as 
individuals approach the top of an organization's hierarchy.

The speci.c behavior that successfully curries favor or signals loyalty 
clearly varies according to the "wishes" induced on a given agent's boss 
by the boss's boss and so on. In principle, both public and private 
organizations can be organized in an ef.cient manner, in the sense that 
the organizational goals are advanced at least cost.23 However, incentives 
to assure ef.ciency within the public bureaucracy tend to be smaller than 
within large .rms. Wage differentials tend to be larger at the top levels 
of private-sector organizations than in comparable public-sector 
organizations; consequently, Tullock pre­dicts that more deference occurs 
in private than in comparable governmental organizations.24

Moreover, a public bureau's ef.ciency is generally more dif.cult to 
assess, and there is substantially less motivation for improving the 
performance of public bureaus than of comparable private bureaus within 
large .rms.25 For these reasons, Tullock concludes that the public 
bureaucracy tends to be less ef.cient than comparable organizations in the 
private sector. What this means as a practical matter is that 
organizational interests, as understood by senior bureaucrats and the 
legislature, are advanced less in public bureaus than within comparable 
organizations in the private sector.

Tullock's analysis implies that the ef.ciency of the public bureaucracy 
can be improved if incentives to monitor public sector performance are 
increased, or if external competitive pressures on bureaus are intensi.ed. 
For example, Tullock argues that federalism can address both problems by 
reducing the complexity (size and scope) of the government agencies to be 
monitored (as local agencies replace national agencies) and by increasing 
competition between public agencies - both directly through efforts of 
localities to attract new residents and, indirectly, by comparison of the 
outputs of neighboring bureaus - as with local school districts and 
highway service departments.

E. Enforcing the law: The courts, crime, and criminals

"My readers are no doubt convinced by now that this book is different from 
other books on legal procedure. They may be convinced that it is superior, 
but, then again, they may not. I am proposing a radically differ­ent way 
of looking at procedural problems, and anyone making radical proposals 
must recognize the possibility that he could be wrong. But, although I 
concede the possibility that I could be wrong, I do not think that I am." 
(TrialsonTrial, 1980: 233)

Of course, the executive bureaucracy is not the only governmental 
institution that affects legislative outcomes. Even within 
well-functioning democracies, many policy-relevant decisions are made by 
"independent" agencies. One crucial agency that is much neglected in the 
public choice literature is the courts. Economics implies that 
essentiallyalltheincentiveeffectsof public policy are generated by 
enforcement - that is to say, by the probabilities of punishment and the 
penalties associated with various kinds of private and public behavior.26 
It is, thus, surprising that public choice scholars have in­vested so 
little effort analyzing the law enforcement system. Ef.cient and equitable 
enforcement of the law cannot be taken for granted.

Professor Tullock was a pioneer in the rational choice-based analysis of 
the legal system, his LogicoftheLaw(1971) being published a year be­fore 
Posner's EconomicAnalysisoftheLaw(1972). Tullock's research on the legal 
system re.ects his interest in political economy. His work focuses largely 
on the problem of law enforcement, although the LogicoftheLawalso analyzes 
both civil and criminal law. On the former subject, largely neglected by 
Posner's treatise, Tullock reminds us that errors will always be made in 
the enforcement of law.27 Not all criminals are caught, not all who are 
caught are criminals, and not all of the guilty parties caught are 
punished, nor all innocent parties released. Mistakes can be made at every 
stage of the judicial process.28

With such errors in mind, Tullock explores the accuracy of institutions 
that determine fault or guilt, and attempts to assess the overall 
performance of the existing U. S. system of justice relative to 
alternative procedures for identifying criminals and persons at fault.29 
Tullock argues that the available evidence implies that the U.S. courts 
make errors (wrongly determine guilt or innocence) in between 10% and 50% 
of the cases that they decide (TrialsonTrial, 1980: 33). Of course, a 
perfectly accurate justice system is impossible. The institutional or 
constitutional question is not whether mistakes are made, but whether too 
many (or too few) mistakes are being made. Improving the accuracy of court 
proceedings can reduce the social cost of illegal activities by better 
targeting sanctions at transgressors, which tends to reduce crime, and 
encourage greater efforts to settle out of court, which tends to reduce 
court costs (TrialsonTrial, 1980: 73-74).

Tullock argues that the system of justice presently used in the United 
States can be improved at relatively low cost. He argues, for example, 
that the continental judicial system widely employed in Europe produces 
more accur­ate verdicts at a lower cost (TrialsonTrial, 1980, ch. 6). In 
the continental system, panels of judges assess guilt or innocence and 
mete out penalties in trials that are organized directly by the judges 
rather than produced by con.ict between legal teams for the votes of jury 
members. Accuracy could be further increased if the training of judges 
included a "good background in statistics, economics, ideas of 
administrative ef.ciency, etc." (TrialsonTrial, 1980: 204)

4. Conclusion and overview: Politicale conomy in the van

Tullock's work demonstrates that the rational choice paradigm sheds light 
on a wide variety of political choice settings, but the world revealed is 
funda­mentally complex, varied, and irreducible. Each political setting 
has its own unique constellation of incentives and constraints. Political 
decisions at the constitutional level include voting rules, legislative 
structure, the institutional structures of the bureaucracy, and the 
courts. The public policies adopted within a given constitutional setting 
must address issues of redistribution and revolution as well as ordinary 
externality and coordination problems. De­cisions reached within all these 
settings can be understood as consequences of rational choice, but each 
choice setting differs from the others and the differences have to be 
taken into account if human behavior and policy outcomes are to be 
understood. Individuals are rational and largely self-interested, but on 
many issues will be rationally ignorant and, consequently, make systematic 

This is not to say that there is nothing that can be said in general. Both 
indi­vidual choices and political outcomes are the result of the same 
fundamental considerations: self-interest, scarcity, and con.ict. And if 
the particulars al­ways differ, and are more than occasionally 
breathtaking, the basic "lay of the Tullock landscape" is always vaguely 

What is universal in Tullock's political economy is human nature. Tullock 
believes that (fairly) narrow self-interest can account for a wide range 
of human behavior, once individual interests are identi.ed for the 
institutional settings of interest. It is his characterization of human 
nature that provides Tullock's research in political economy with its 
uni.ed and coherent core.

What is unique about Tullock's approach to political economy is his 
willingness to identify costs and bene.ts in essentially all choice 
settings, including many where more orthodox economists and political 
scientists fear to tread. Tullock's work suggests that a proper 
understanding of institutional settings allows relatively straightforward 
net-bene.t maximizing models to account for a rich and complex range of 
policy outcomes. A good deal of human behavior, perhaps most, can be 
understood using the rational choice model of behavior, once the 
particular costs and bene.ts of actions for a given institutional setting 
are recognized.

A. Normative research

Although Tullock's work is motivated, in large part, by his efforts to 
make sense of a broad range of historic and contemporary puzzles that have 
come to his attention over the course of a lifetime of rapid and extensive 
reading, his research has never aimed exclusively at understanding the 
world. His books and many of his papers address normative as well as 
positive issues.31 His normative approach is utilitarian and comparative, 
and, for the most part, his normative conclusions follow closely from his 
positive analyses. If he can show that the averageperson is better off 
under institution X than under institution Y, he concludes that Y is a 
better institution than X. In such cases, Y is approximately Pareto 
superior to X.

Thus, a society with a stable criminal and civil law is better off than 
one lacking them (LogicoftheLaw,1971, ch. 2). A society with a more 
accurate judiciary is better off than one with a less accurate judicial 
process (TrialsonTrial, 1980: Ch. 6). A society with an ef.cient 
collective decision rule is better off than one that fails to minimize 
decision costs (CalculusofConsent, 1962: Ch. 6). A society that uses the 
demand-revealing process to make collective decisions would be better off 
than one relying on majority rule (Tideman and Tullock, 1976). A society 
that reduces rent-seeking losses is better off than one that fails to 
address this problem (Ef.cientRentSeeking,2000: Ch. 1). Intelligent 
institutional design can improve the ef.ciency of the judicial system, 
reduce the losses from con.ict, and produce better public policies, 
although it cannot eliminate all losses or mistakes.

Although many normative arguments are found throughout Tullock's work, his 
analysis is never utopian. He never claims that institutional arrange­ment 
Y is the best possible arrangement, only that existing arrangements can be 
improved. Indeed, he argues that utopian approaches may impede useful 
reforms (SocialDilemma, 1974, p. 140).

B. Breadth of Tullock's research

Most economists study the behavior of rational self-interested individuals 
in­teracting within a stable pattern of laws and regulations governing 
ownership and exchange. Most political scientists study individual and 
group behavior within a stable pattern of constitutional laws and rules 
governing political procedures and constraints. The public choice 
literature as a whole analyzes how economic and political interests give 
rise to public policies. The public policies studied by public choice 
scholars include both the routine legislative outcomes of ordinary 
day-to-day politics and administration decisions, and also changes in the 
fundamental laws that determine the procedures and con­straints under 
which future political and economic decision making will be made. The 
political and economic processes studied by public choice schol­ars, thus, 
can be said to generate the "settings" and many of the "facts" studied by 
the more established .elds of economics and political science.

In this respect, public choice can be regarded as broaderin scope than 
either of its parent disciplines, and, consequently, a scholar who 
contributes to all the research programs within public choice necessarily 
has a very broad program of research. Gordon Tullock is one of a handful 
of scholars who has contributed to all the various sub.elds in that area 
of research known as public choice.

Of course, the public choice research program includes many men and women 
of insight who have addressed deep and broad issues along the same 
intellectual frontiers. Professor Tullock's intellectual enterprise has 
long been shared by his colleagues at the Thomas Jefferson Center and the 
Center for Study of Public Choice - especially James Buchanan and Robert 
Tollison - and by many in the extensive intellectual network in which 
those centers par­ticipated. However, Tullock's work is nearly unique 
among the well-known pioneers of public choice for its originality, 
breadth, comparative approach, and historical foundations.

C. Tullock's intellectual impact

In constructing a "road map" for the intellectual landscape traversed by 
Professor Tullock's political economy, the focus of this paper has been 
the underlying themes in his work, and, in some cases, it has attempted to 
bridge gaps in his work that are essentially implied by the totality of 
his political economy research.

Other gaps have been ignored, and some of his work outside public choice 
has been neglected. For example, his work on dictatorship does not examine 
why some autocrats have better track records than others. The relative 
per­formance of American and European judicial systems is developed 
without addressing the empirical questions of whether crime rates or 
lawsuits are sys­tematically different as a consequence of different 
judicial procedures. Hints are provided in Autocracyand LogicoftheLawbut 
there is no systematic analysis. Moreover, some of his work has been 
neglected because it is not an essential part of his political economy 
research program. There is, for example, his work on biology and 
sociobiology, The Economics of Nonhuman Societies (1994), and his work on 
monetary economics (1954, 1979).

The survey undertaken has not devoted signi.cant space to assessing the 
quality and impact of Tullock's work. That most readers of this piece are 
already familiar with many of his scholarly articles is itself evidence of 
this. A "tour guide" of Tullock's work would have tried to assess the 
magnitude of his major contributions with the bene.t of hindsight or from 
the perspective of the times at which his ideas were developed. It is 
clear, for example, that The Calculus of Consent(1962), written with James 
Buchanan, was not only very original, but in.uential from the moment it 
was published. The Calculus has been cited in scienti.c articles well over 
a thousand times since its pub­lication. Moreover, it continues to be 
highly regarded and continues to spur new research; the Calculus has 
already been cited more than 100 times since January 2000.

Not all of Professor Tullock's contributions have been immediately 
re­cognized. Several of his ideas awaited reinvention by other scholars 
before coming to prominence. His original work on rent seeking (1967, 
1974) was well-regarded, but not widely appreciated until 10 or 20 years 
after its pub-lication.32 The term "rent seeking" was actually coined by 
Anne Krueger in 1974. His contributions to principal-agent, ef.ciency 
wage, and organization theory worked out in the 
PoliticsofBureaucracy(1966) have been largely neglected by the new 
literatures on those subjects. His work on the law, es­pecially with 
respect to judicial proceedings, errors, and criminal sanctions, are 
noted, but not as widely as appears justi.ed. His theory of autocrats as 
service-providing income maximizers was worked out in the .rst anarchy 
volume (1972) and further developed in TheSocialDilemma(1974), but awaited 
rediscovery by Mancur Olson (1993) and Ronald Wintrobe (1990) nearly two 
decades later. The invention of what now is called a contest-success 
function in TheLogicoftheLaw(1971) and subsequently applied in his work on 
ef.cient rent seeking (1980) also seems underrecognized, although it is 
noted by Jack Hirshliefer (2001). His work on the enterprise of science, 
The Organization of Inquiry(1966) is a gold mine awaiting rediscov­ery. 
Sometimes, Tullock blazes a trail that is too far ahead of the mainstream 
to be fully appreciated. And, one can be too far in front of "the parade" 
to be readily associated with it.

That Tullock's observations have contributed much to our understand­ing of 
the political landscape is, nonetheless, well recognized. His research 
continues to be among the most highly cited in the social sciences. His 
willingness to chart new grounds and point out the "dead ends," "ruts," 
"potholes," and "slippery slopes" of other scholars - largely to our 
bene.t, if often at his pleasure - continues to make his work provocative 
and entertain­ing. His books and papers address new issues and associated 
problems at the same time that general principles are being worked out. 
His long editorship of PublicChoicehelped to de.ne and establish the .eld.

The huge range of original explanations and conclusions that Tullock 
de­velops in his books and papers can easily lead a casual reader or 
listener to conclude that there is little systematic in his research, or 
perhaps in public choice generally. His brisk discussions of issues risk 
losing the reader in a forest of special cases and ingenious insights, 
rather than illuminating the main pathways followed. Clearly, a mere list 
of possible explanations is not social science. Social sciencedoes not 
simply provide an unconnected logicof speci.c instances of collective 
action, but attempts to determine what is general about the behavior that 
we observe.

The present essay attempts to remedy this potential misapprehension by 
providing a more concise and integrated vision of the territory charted by 
Tul-lock's unusually extensive political economy than a casual reader may 
have obtained from a small sample of Professor Tullock's published work. 
The aim of Tullock's social science is not just to explain the main 
details of social life, but as much as possibly can be understood. His 
social science attempts to systematically explain and predict 
allofhumanbehavior. His work demon­strates that self-interest, con.ict, 
and institutions account for a good deal of human behavior in both 
ordinary and extraordinary political circumstances - and, in Tullock's 
view, far more than is generally acknowledged.


1. The work of many social scientists attempts to show that complex real 
world phenomena can be understood with a few fundamental principles that 
others have failed to recognize. This reductionist approach attempts to 
demonstrate that the world is essentially simpler than it appears. The 
reductionist research agenda is clearly of great esthetic interest for 
academics who appreciate the intellectual craftsmanship required to devise 
lean, pen­etrating, encompassing theories. It is also an important 
practical enterprise insofar as reductionist theories allow knowledge 
accumulated over many lifetimes to be passed on from one generation to the 
next with relatively modest investments of time and effort by teachers and 

2. As many who have argued with Professor Tullock over the years will 
attest, the rough edges of his work somehow make his analyses all the more 
interesting. His provocative theoretical and historical assertions 
challenge his interlocutors to think more carefully about issues that they 
would not have imagined and/or mistakenly taken for granted. The fact that 
Tullock is occasionally incorrect somehow helps stimulate his fans and 
foes to greater effort.

3. "A scienti.c theory consists of a logical structure proceeding from 
certain assumptions to certain conclusions. We hope that both the 
assumptions and the conclusions may be checked by comparing them with the 
real world; the more highly testable the theory, the better. Normally, 
however, certain parts of the theory are dif.cult to test. We are not 
unduly concerned by this, since if parts of it survive tests, we may 
assume that the untestable remainder is also true." (Gordon Tullock, 
LogicoftheLaw, 1971: 10.)

4. "The theory of the lever may, of course, be disproved tomorrow, but the 
fact that it has withstood two thousand years of critical examination, 
much of it using tools which the Greeks could not even dream of, does 
raise some presumption that here we have a bit of theory which is 
absolutely true. It seems likely that somewhere in our present vast 
collection of theories there are others which are, in fact, true, that is 
which will not be disproved at any time in the future. It is, of course, 
impossible to say which they are." (Gordon Tullock, OrganizationofInquiry, 
1966: 48.)

5. "An intelligent outsider who has the time and interest in a problem 
should investigate, himself, since only in this way can he reach the level 
of certainty of the experts them­selves. Personal knowledge is always 
superior to hearsay, ..." (Gordon Tullock, The Organization of Inquiry, 
1966: 53.)

6. "I prefer to use the world ‘rational' for those acts that might well 
achieve the goals to which the actor aims, regardless of whether they are 
humanitarian, violent, etc." (Gordon Tullock, TheSocialDilemma, 1974: 4.)

7. Tullock often acknowledges his own fallibility although he does not 
tout it. This is evident in the lead quote and several others included in 
the text. Another appears in the .rst chapter of 
TowardsaMathematicsofPolitics.There he relates a story about failing to 
purchase glasses made out of a new material when it was .rst suggested to 
him by his optometrist. Gordon, evidently misunderstood what was said 
regarding an innovation in lens design, and fully appreciated it only a 
week or so later, at which point he purchased the glasses with the 
recommended lenses.

8. "My main point is simply that we stop fooling ourselves about 
redistribution. We have a minor desire to help the poor. This leads to 
certain government policies. We also have some desire for income 
insurance. And we also, to some extent, envy the rich. ...[However,] the 
largest single source of income redistribution is simply the desire of the 
recipients to receive the money." (Gordon Tullock, "The Rhetoric and 
Reality of Redistribution," Southern Economic Journal, 1981: 906.)

9. "Man is a complicated animal and his motives are many and varied". 
(Gordon Tullock, The Organization of Inquiry, 1966: 39.)

10. "We argue below that it (altruism) is a relatively minor motive and 
the major motives tend to lead to inef.ciency and distortion. This motive 
(altruism), insofar as it is implemented, actually improves the ef.ciency 
of the economy." (Gordon Tullock, "The Rhetoric and Reality of 
Redistribution," SouthernEconomicJournal, 1981: 896.) Of course, if envy 
is strong enough, then taking a dollar away from me might give other 
people a total satisfaction which was larger than the loss of the dollar 
to me. Thus plunder­ing the Rockefeller family might be socially desirable 
if we had some way of measuring innate utilities." (Gordon Tullock, "The 
Rhetoric and Reality of Redistribution," SouthernEconomicJournal, 1981: 

11. "The primacy of private interest is not inconsistent with the 
observation that most people, in addition to pursuing their private 
interests have some charitable instincts, some tend­ency to help others 
and to engage in various morally correct activities. However the evidence 
seems fairly strong that these motives other than the pursuit of private 
interests are not the ones on which we can depend for the achievement of 
long-continued ef.cient performance." (Gordon Tullock, 
GovernmentWhoseObedientServant?, 2000: 11.)

12. A collection of Washington quotes are available on the internet at 
http://www.dropbears. com/b/broughsbooks/qwashington.htm.

13. "Economics has traditionally studied the bene.ts of cooperation. 
Political science is be­ginning to move in that direction. Although I 
would not quarrel with the desirability of such studies, the fact remains 
that con.ict is also important. In general con.ict uses re­sources, hence 
it is socially inef.cient, but entering into the con.ict may be 
individually rational for one or both parties. ...The social dilemma, 
then, is that we would always be better off collectively if we could avoid 
playing this kind of negative sum game, but individuals may make gains by 
forcingsuchagameon the rest of us." (Gordon Tullock, The Social Dilemma, 
1974: 2.)

14. "Obviously, as a good social policy, we should try to avoid having 
games that are likely to lead to this kind of waste. Again, we should try 
to arrange that the payoff to further investment in resources is 
comparatively low, or, in other words, that the cost curve [of rent 
seeking] points sharply upward." (Gordon Tullock, Ef.cientRentSeeking, 
2000: 13.) "There are institutions that will reduce the likelihood of 
being forced into such a game, but these institutions cost resources, too. 
...[However] the problem is unavoidable - at least in the present state of 
knowledge. Pretending that it does not exist is likely to make us worse 
off than conceding its existence and taking rational precautions." (Gordon 
Tullock, TheSocialDilemma, 1974: 2.)

15. "The problem of maintaining power in a dictatorship is really similar 
to that of maintain­ing a majority for redistributive purposes in a voting 
body. It is easily demonstrated, of course, that it is always possible to 
build a majority against any particular program of redistribution by 
offering something to the "outs" on the original program and fairly high 
payments to a few of the "ins." The situation in a dictatorship is 
similar. It is always pos­sible at least in theory to collect together a 
group of people which is more powerful than the group supporting the 
status quo. This group will be composed of important of.cials of the 
regime who could bene.t from its overthrow and their concomitant 
promotion." (Gordon Tullock, Autocracy, 1987: 19.)

16. "Preventing overthrow by the common people is, in general, quite easy 
if the ruler is only willing to repress vigorously and to offer large 
rewards for information about conspiracies against him." (Gordon Tullock, 
Autocracy, 1987: 68.)

17. Tullock may disagree with this location-based explanation. "Most of my 
work in Public Choice has dealt with democratic governments. This is not 
because I thought that demo­cratic governments were the dominant form of 
government, either currently or historically. That more people are ruled 
by autocracy than democracies today, and that the same can be said of 
earlier periods, is obvious. I did think that democratic governments were 
better than the various alternatives which have been tried from time to 
time, but the basic reason that most things that I have published have 
dealt with democracies is simply that I've found dictatorship to be a 
very, very dif.cult problem." (Gordon Tullock, Autocracy, 1987: x.)

18. "For a given activity, the fully rational individual at the time of 
constitutional choice will try to choose that decision-making rule which 
will minimize the present value of the expected costs that he must suffer. 
He will do so by minimizing the sum of the expected external costs and the 
expected decision-making costs . . . [In this manner,] the individual will 
choose the rule which requires that K/N of the group agree when collective 
decisions are made." (Gordon Tullock and James M. Buchanan, 
CalculusofConsent, 1962: 70.) "This broad ...classi.cation does not, of 
course, suggest that all collective action should rationally be placed 
under one of two decision making rules. The number of categories, and the 
number of decision-making rules chosen, will depend on the situation which 
the individual expects to prevail and the "returns to scale' expected to 
result from using the same rule over many activities." (Gordon Tullock and 
James M. Buchanan, CalculusofConsent, 1962: 76.)

19. In their words, the demand-revealing process "is a new process for 
making social choices, one that is superior to other processes that have 
been suggested. The method is immune to strategic maneuvering on the part 
of individual voters. It avoids the conditions of the Arrow theorem by 
using more information than the rank orders of preferences and selects a 
unique point on or ‘almost on' the Pareto-optimal frontier, one that 
maximizes or ‘almost maximizes' the consumer surplus of society. Subject 
to any given distributions of wealth, the process may be used to 
approximate the Lindahl equilibrium for all public goods." (Tideman and 
Tullock, JournalofPoliticalEconomy, 84: 1145.)

20. An interesting property of the median voter hypothesis is that 
decisions tend to be largely independent of the particulars of the 
interests of voters away from the median (Black, 1948). All that matters 
is that which is necessary to identify the median voter. How much more or 
less than the median voter's interest is demanded by other voters and how 
intensively those demands are held is irrelevant. A wide range of voter 
distributions can have the same median. However, not every distribution of 
voter preferences has a median. In the absense of a median, McKelvy (1979) 
demonstrates that literally "anything" can happen under a sequence of 
majority decisions. The properties of democratic governance are by no 
means obvious, and the more detailed the institutional structures and 
preferences that are taken account of, the more complex political decision 
making becomes.

21. Vote trading can also lead to the funding of regional boon-doggles, as 
in the pork barrel dilemma (Tullock, 1959). Again the world is more 
complex than one might have hoped.

22. "Insofar as the alternatives for employment are limited, and the 
shifting of either jobs or employees involves costs, the secondary, or 
‘political' relationship enters even here. ...The most obvious empirical 
veri.cation of this difference is the degree of deference shown to 
superiors." (Gordon Tullock, ThePoliticsofBureaucracy, 1966: 11.)

23. "In the ideally ef.cient organization, then, the man dominated by 
ambition would .nd himself taking the same courses of action as an 
idealist simply because such procedure would be the most effective for him 
in achieving the personal goals that he seeks. At the other extreme, an 
organization may be so badly designed that an idealist may .nd it 
necessary to take an almost completely opportunistic position because only 
in this manner can his ideals be served." (Gordon Tullock, 
ThePoliticsofBureaucracy, 1965, p. 21.)

24. "In the United States civil service, the individual career employee is 
generally not ex­pected to put up with quite as much ‘pushing around' as 
he might endure in the higher ranks of some large corporations. To balance 
this, he will be receiving less salary and will probably .nd that the 
orders which he is expected to implement are less rational than those he 
could expect to receive in private industry." (Gordon Tullock, 
ThePoliticsofBureaucracy, 1966: 12.)

25. "Improving the ef.ciency of a large corporation by, let us say, 2 
percent may well mean that some individual's wealth goes up by $50 million 
and a very large number of individu­als will have increases in wealth on 
the order of a hundred to a million dollars. Maximizing the public 
interest, however, would always be a public good, and improvement by 2 
per­cent in the functioning ef.ciency of some bureau would 
characteristically increase the well-being of average citizens, or, 
indeed, any citizen by amounts which would be almost invisible." (Gordon 
Tullock, Government:WhoseObedientServant?, 2000: 58.)

26. It bears noting that many of the demands for public policy within a 
given society are independent of the type of political regime in place. 
For example, criminal and civil laws would be adopted by nearly unanimous 
agreement by all free men and women at a constitutional convention 
(Calculus of Consent,1962: Ch. 5, and Logic of the Law, 1971: Ch. 2). 
Alternatively, an autocrat may establish criminal and civil law as a means 
of maximizing the resources potentially available to the state 
(Explorations in the Theory of Anarchy, 1972: 72, and The Social Dilemma, 
1974: 19). Murder and theft will ordinarily be punished, and most 
contracts will be enforced under both democratic and autocratic regimes. 
Some other rules may vary somewhat according to regime type, as with rules 
concerning payments to government of.cials, freedom of assembly, and the 
publication of news critical of the government, but regime type will not 
always directly affect public policy outcomes or economic performance.

27. Of course, procedural questions are more important for a political 
economist than for a scholar whose work focuses on a single society. This 
probably explains why procedural aspects of law enforcement are given 
relatively little attention in the law and economics literature, see, for 
example, Becker (1968) or Posner (1972).

28. "Most crimes are not simply the preliminary to punishment for the 
criminals, most people who are in prison have not had anything that we 
would recognize as a trial, and admin­istrative decisions keep people in 
prison and (in effect) extend their sentence." (Gordon Tullock, 
LogicoftheLaw, 1971: 169.)

29. "The problem of determining what actually happened is one of the 
court's duties and the only one we are discussing now. A historic 
reconstruction, which is what we are now talking about, is a dif.cult task 
for a variety of reasons. One is that witnesses lie and in lawsuits, there 
usually are at least some witnesses who have a strong motive to lie. They 
may also simply be mistaken. Another reason is that many things which 
happen that are of interest to the court leave no physical traces and, 
indeed, may leave no traces on the minds of the parties...different cases 
have different amounts of evidence of varying quality available, and 
...this evidence leads us to varying probabilities of reaching the correct 
decision." (Gordon Tullock, Trials on Trial, 1980: 25-26.)

30. This is especially true for those working in the tradition of the 
public choice approach to politics. However, the latter is partly a 
consequence of Tullock's many contributions to public choice, but, perhaps 
even more so, a consequence of his two decades as editor of the journal 
PublicChoice. Those years largely de.ned the discipline as we know it now, 
and Tullock's editorial decisions helped determine those boundaries - such 
as they are - and his responses to contributors made his world view both 
familiar and important to aspiring public choice scholars of that period.

31. "We undertake investigations because we are curious, or because we 
hope to use the information obtained for some practical purpose." (Gordon 
Tullock, 1966, OrganizationofInquiry, 1966: 12.)

32. In fact, his .rst paper on the costly nature of efforts to secure 
rents (1967) was roundly rejected by the major economics journals (Brady 
and Tollison, 1994: 9-10).


Selected references: Gordon Tullock.

Lockard, A.A. and Tullock, G. (2001). Efficient rent seeking: Chronicle of 
an intellectual quagmire. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Tullock, G., Seldon, A. and Brady, G.L. (2000). Government: Whose obedient 
servant?: A primer in public choice. London: Institute of Economic 
Affairs. Tullock, G. (1997). Thecaseagainstthecommonlaw. Durham: North 
Carolina Academic Press.

Tullock, G. (1997). Economics of income redistribution. Boston: Kluwer 
Academic Publishers.

Brady, G.L. and Tollison, R.D. (Eds.). (1994). On the trail of homo 
economicus: Essays by Gordon Tullock. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University 

Tullock, G. (1994). The economics of nonhuman societies. Tucson: Pallas 

Grier, K.B. and Tullock, G. (1989). An empirical analysis of 
cross-national economic growth, 1951-80. Journal of Monetary Economics 24: 

Tullock, G. (1989). The economics of special privilege and rent seeking. 
Hingham, MA: Lancaster and Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Tullock, G. (1987).  Autocracy. Hingham, MA: Lancaster and Dordrecht: 
Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Tullock, G. (1986). The economics of wealth and poverty. New York: New 
York University Press; (distributed by Columbia University Press).

Tullock, G. (1985). Adam Smith and the prisoners' dilemma, Quarterly 
Journal of Economics 100: 1073-1081.

McKenzie, R.B. and Tullock, G. (1985). The new world of economics: 
Explorations into the human experience. Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Brennan, G. and Tullock, G. (1982). An economic theory of military 
tactics: Methodological individualism at war. Journal of Economic Behavior 
and Organization 3: 225-242.

Tullock, G. (1981). The rhetoric and reality of redistribution. Southern 
Economic Journal 47: 895-907.

Tullock, G. (1981). Why so much stability? Public Choice 37: 189-202.

Tullock, G. (1980). Trials on trial: The pure theory of lega lprocedure. 
New York: Columbia University Press.

Tullock, G. (1980). Ef.cient rent seeking. In J.M. Buchanan, R.D. 
Tollison, and G. Tullock. Toward a theory of the rent-seeking society, 
97-112. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Tullock, G. (1979). When is in.ation not in.ation: A note. Journal of 
Money, Credit, and Banking 11: 219-221.

Tullock, G. (1977). Economics and sociobiology: A comment. Journal of 
Economic Literature 15: 502-506.

Tideman, T.N. and Tullock, G. (1976). A new and superior process for 
making social choices. Journal of Political Economy 84: 1145-1159.

Tullock, G. (1975). The transitional gains trap. Bell Journal of Economics 
6: 671-678.

Buchanan, J.M. and Tullock, G. (1975). Polluters' pro.ts and political 
response: Direct controls versus taxes. American Economic Review 65: 

Tullock, G. (1974). The social dilemma: The economics of war and 
revolution. Blacksburg: University Publications.

Tullock, G. (1972). Explorations in the theory of anarchy. Blacksburg: 
Center for the Study of Public Choice.

Buchanan, J.M. and Tullock, G. (1971/1962). Thecalculusofconsent: Logical 
foundations of constitutional democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 

Tullock, G. (1971). The charity of the uncharitable. Western Economic 
Journal 9: 379-392.

Tullock, G. (1971). Inheritance justi.ed. Journal of Law and Economics 14: 

Tullock, G. (1971). The paradox of revolution. Public Choice 11: 88-99.

Tullock, G. (1971). Public decisions as public goods. Journal of Political 
Economy 79: 913- 918.

Tullock, G. (1971/1988). The logic of the law. Fairfax: George Mason 
University Press.

Tullock, G. (1967). The general irrelevance of the general impossibility 
theorem. Quarterly Journal of Economics 81: 256-270.

Tullock, G. (1967). The welfare costs of monopolies, tariffs and theft. 
Western Economic Journal 5: 224-232.

Tullock, G. (1967). Towards a mathematics of politics. Ann Arbor: 
University of Michigan Press.

Tullock, G. (Ed.). (1966/7). Papers on non-market decision making. 
Charlottesville: Thomas Jefferson Center for Political Economy, University 
of Virginia.

Tullock, G. (1966). The Organization of Inquiry. Durham: Duke University 

Tullock, G. (1966). Gains-from-trade in votes (with J.M. Buchanan). Ethics 
76: 305-306.

Tullock, G. (1965). The politics of bureaucracy. Washington, DC: Public 
Affairs Press.

Tullock, G. (1965). Entry barriers in politics. American Economic 
Review55: 458-466.

Tullock, G. (1962). Entrepreneurial politics.Charlottesville: Thomas 
Jefferson Center for Studies in Political Economy, University of Virginia.

Tullock, G. (1959). Problems of majority voting. Journal of 
PoliticalEconomy 67: 571-579.

Campbell, C.D. and Tullock, G. (1954). Hyperin.ation in China, 1937-49. 
Journal of Political Economy 62: 236-245.

Other references

Becker, G.S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. The 
Journal of Political Economy 76: 169-217.

Biennen, H. and van de Walle, N. (1989). Time and power in Africa. 
American Political Science Review 83: 19-34.

Black, D. (1948). On the rationale of group decision-making. Journal of 
Political Economy 56: 23-34.

Buchanan, J.M. (1987). The qualities of a natural economist. In C. Rowley 
(Ed.), Democracy and public choice, 9-19. New York: Blackwell.

Congleton, R.D. (1988). An overview of the contractarian public .nance of 
James Buchanan. Public Finance Quarterly 16: 131-157.

Congleton, R.D. (1980). Competitive process, competitive waste, and 
institutions. In J. Buchanan, R. Tollison, and G. Tullock (Eds.), Towards 
a theory of the rent-seeking society, 153-179. Texas A & M Press.

Hirshliefer, J. (2001). The dark side of the force: Economic foundations 
of con.ict theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, P. (1997). A history of the American people. New York: Harper.

Krueger, A.O. (1974). The political economy of the rent-seeking society. 
American Economic Review 64: 291-303.

McKelvey, R.D. (1979). General conditions for global intransitivities in 
formal voting models. Econometrica 47: 1085-1112.

Olson, M. (1993). Dictatorship, democracy, and development. American 
Political Science Review 87: 567-576.

Posner, R.E. (1972). Economic analysis of the law. Boston: Little, Brown 
and Company.

Shepsle, K.A. and Weingast, B.R. (1981). Structure-induced equilibrium and 
legislative choice. Public Choice 37: 503-519.

Wintrobe, R. (1990). The tinpot and the totalitarian: An economic theory 
of dictatorship. American Political Science Review 84: 849-872.

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