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Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics$
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Leif Lewin

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198277255

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198277253.001.0001

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Individual and Collective Rationality

Individual and Collective Rationality

(p.98) 5 Individual and Collective Rationality
Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics

Leif Lewin (Contributor Webpage)

, Donald Lavery
Oxford University Press

The final chapter of the book draws conclusions and implications from the evidence presented in previous chapters that public interest seems to be of greater importance in democratic politics than self‐interest. Analysing collective rationality, the public‐choice theory maintains the notion that realization of collective choice often brings about ‘unfortunate and unintended consequences’, thus suggesting that more self‐regulatory, privately owned free‐market economy can solve many problems, providing individuals better opportunities to reach their goals. As an alternative, drawing on such classics of political philosophy as Rousseau, Kant, and Hume, as well as on insights of iterative games of ‘Prisoner Dilemma’, Leif Lewin describes concepts of welfare state, social contract, and common good. Upholding the belief that the man is a rational human being, who endeavours to realize his preferences, the author maintains that these preferences need not be egoistic in nature and calls political scientists not to deny the findings of their own empirical research. He concludes that for the most part the man tries to further the public interest in politics, assuming that in the long run such policies are also to his own benefit.

Keywords:   collective choice, collective rationality, free‐market economy, market imperfections, public interest, rational human being, social contract, welfare state

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