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"Understanding Democracy: An Introduction to Public Choice" is a comprehensive introduction to Public Choice. It covers the history of public choice, the history of democracy, the fundamental question of market vs. government, the significance of the market economy and the sources of market failure, the reasons for a constitution, the essential and optional provisions of a constitution, election rules, the types of representation, voting, campaign spending, the efficiency of voting rules, vote-trading, lawmaking and special interests, political parties, pressure groups, the history of bureaucracy, models of bureaucracy, rent seeking, and various forms of privatization.

The book takes the well-established Public Choice viewpoint that the major classes of actors in a democracy are neither superior nor inferior beings. It assumes that they are ordinary people with ordinary goals and ordinary abilities to achieve their goals. They are not especially "public interested" and not especially selfish.

The basic question that the book tries to answer is this. Suppose that members of a collective want to transfer their control over force to agents in order to cause "public goods" to be supplied or to correct for other so-called "market failures." What kind of government are they likely to want? This implies two sub-questions. First how would they assure that agents are hired to provide the services they want? Second, how would they control the agents?

The book answers these questions by using the method of understanding. In other words, we "put ourselves in the shoes" of the actors who have the task of building a constitution that will enable
1. politicians to be elected,
2. laws to be made,
3. law enforcement to occur, and
4. protection for the members of the collective who build the constitution.

To judge whether members of a collective can achieve such goals, one must build an image of how real people will act in the various roles that are dictated by a constitution. We ask: How will voters act? What characteristics are the politicians likely to have and how are they likely to act? What characteristics are the bureaucrats who are hired to administer the law likely to have?

In the process of answering these questions, this book takes several intellectual journeys. The first is back in history to the times and places where the basic principles of modern democracy were slowly set in place and clarified. The second is a brief trip to economics in order to understand the strengths of a capitalist market economy and its limitations. The third is a journey through the process of making a constitution. We imagine a general assembly of people who expect to be subject (a) to the laws passed by the agents and (b) to the enforcement procedures adopted by the bureaucrats who administer the laws. Next, we travel with voters as they make their voting decision and choose among candidates for political office. Fifth, we join hands with legislative candidates first as they try to get elected; and second as they exercise their rights to make laws. Sixth, we take a brief detour to visit political parties and pressure groups in order to better understand how they help and how they influence the lawmakers. Seventh, we tour with bureaucrats who are hired to execute laws and to enforce the terms of a constitution.

Following these journeys, we investigate two topics that have aroused the interest of Public Choice scholars in recent decades. The first is rent-seeking -- efforts by citizens to gain at the expense of others by influencing the making and administration of laws. The second is privatization, which is especially important in new democracies.