Ökonomie: Government Failure (Staatsversagen)

Vom Marktversagen, Market Failure, hat jeder schon gehört. Tatsächlich ist es fast durchgängig in ökonomischen Konzepten und im öffentlichen Diskurs präsent – als Rechtfertigung für den Eingriff des Staates. Der Eingriff von Staaten birgt indes eine Gefahr, die nicht so prominent thematisiert wird, das Staatsversagen, Government Failure, das Anthony de Jasay systematisiert hat:

“Taking it for granted that voluntary provisions of public goods must be aborted by ‘market failure’ due to non-excludability, traditional theory considers provisions by the government – financed by taxes, as patently superior to the purported alternative of no public goods, lawlessness, and a ‘nasty, brutish and short life’. It seems to go without saying that since only the government can, it ought to supply public goods: ‘the only question which arises is whether the benefits are worth the costs’ (Hayek 1960, 222), it is a large one. There is no agreed way of answering it. How much of which goods are to be provided are matters decided by a complex political process. For well-known reasons explored in social choice theory, it is highly problematic to take the outcomes of the process as the ‘true’ credible, reliable expression of ‘society’s preferences.’ Yet, if available social choice mechanisms are not to be trusted, what other indications should on follow? On what grounds can one affirm that the benefit of a public good is (or is not) worth its cost?

Any political process offers opportunities for a winning coalition to distribute the benefits and costs of public goods asymmetrically, skewing the ‘product mix’ to favour its own interests and tastes, and making the costs fall more heavily on the losing coalition. ‘The benefits are worth the costs’ to the winners but perhaps not to the losers. Some or all of this redistributive effect is concealed from view, and some of it may be unintentional. Neither feature commends it.

Secondly, there is a presumption that the political process is systematically biased to overprovide the good relative to some putative Pareto-optimum. The bias may arise from ‘fiscal illusion’ – people vote for incremental expenditure without perceiving a connection between it and their own incremental taxes – from asymmetry between those who vote for public goods and those who are made to pay for them, and from the ability of single-issue groups to press for and obtain expenditure on some special public good, of interest to the single-issue ‘public’ by strategic voting or  log-rolling. As Hayek puts it, a public good must satisfy ‘collective wants of the community as a whole and not merely … of particular groups’ (Hayek 1978, 111), but this merely begs the question of how we tell what ‘the community as a whole’ wants, and how we make the political process deliver it (rather than some dubious aggregation of several particular wants).” (De Jasay, Justice and its Surroundings, 23-24)

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