Systems Theory and the Public Policy Shell Game

43 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2014

See all articles by Richard E. Wagner

Richard E. Wagner

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: July 24, 2014


This is a preliminary draft of the second of what will be eight chapters in a book titled Politics as a Peculiar Business: Public Choice in a System of Entangled Political Economy. This chapter sets forth the framework to be developed and elaborated in the remaining chapters. The subtitle announces that the book fits within the public choice rubric, through with some differences. For one thing, it is written from within a systems-theoretic orientation which differs from most economic theory in its treatment of the parts-to-whole relationship. This relationship plays out through treating political economy as entangled networks of interaction among political and economic entities, which among other things replaces the notion of political intervention into market activity with one of political participation inside market activity, for better or for worse. The title, moreover, illustrates my view that the object of economic analysis is always concerned with the theoretical treatment of practical action of some sort, which in this case is politics as a peculiar type of business activity.

Keywords: systems theory; robotic systems vs. creative systems; emergence; entangled political economy; private property vs. public property; scalable vs. scale-free systems

JEL Classification: B50; D23; D78; P16

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Richard E., Systems Theory and the Public Policy Shell Game (July 24, 2014). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 14-22, Available at SSRN: or

Richard E. Wagner (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Fairfax, VA 22030
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(703) 993-1132 (Phone)


George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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Arlington, VA 22201
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