• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Private Desires, Political Action is an accessible overview of one of the most important approaches to the study of politics in the modern world - rational choice theory. Michael Laver does not set out to review this entire field, but rather to discuss how we might use rational choice theory to analyze the political competition that affects almost every aspect of our lives. The broad-ranging scope of the book introduces the theory at many levels of analysis, including: the private desires of individuals; the social context of how people fulfil their desires; and the problems of collective action. The discussion of these problems extends into the arena of politics, where the activities of `political entrepreneurs' or

Collective Action
Collective action

We have just seen that a key political problem confronting rational people is that they may well desire things that no individual person can possibly provide in isolation from all others. Satisfying private desires is almost certain to require collective action of some sort. When an individual can be excluded from enjoying the benefits of a good that is collectively produced, then he or she has an incentive to contribute to its production. When no such exclusion is possible, a rational individual faces a strong incentive to take free rides. It may well be that so many people will take free rides that insufficient resources are available for good to be produced, making all who value the good, including the free riders, ...

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