Ethics *and* dirty realism in public policy

Ethan Bueno de Mesquita’s new book, [amazon_link id=”0691168741″ target=”_blank” ]Political Economy for Public Policy[/amazon_link], has just landed at Enlightenment towers. I’m excited about this book, which I read at the proof stage. As I say in the blurb I provided, “This book brings some much-needed clarity and rigor to the analysis of public policy: What are the aims of policy, what are the inescapable dilemmas and trade-offs, and what are the pitfalls in government action? Above all, its essential message is that effective policy analysis is impossible without taking account of the political realities and the difficulties of implementation.” And as one of the other comments puts it, there is no other book like it.

[amazon_image id=”0691168741″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Political Economy for Public Policy[/amazon_image]

Why so? Well, it’s a mildly technical textbook – nothing too alarming – combining the rigour of economics in approaching public policy (voting rules, game theory, Arrow etc) with the philosophical foundations and politics of implementation. It aims for a consistent synthesis, and largely succeeds. I like the way it starts with the ethical issues, and puts questions of trade-offs and distributional issues up front. And I like just as much the fact that it is so clear about the incentives faced by policymakers and the dirty realism of political constraints.

As a bonus, there’s also a super-clear appendix explaining game theory for students who haven’t come across it elsewhere.

Well worth a look if you teach political economy or public policy. There are exercises at the end of each chapter, and further reading. I will set some chapters for my course.