The Peculiar Business of Politics

32 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2016

See all articles by Richard E. Wagner

Richard E. Wagner

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

Date Written: July 20, 2016


This essay stems from Jim Dorn’s invitation to encapsulate my recent book, Politics as a Peculiar Business: Insights from a Theory of Entangled Political Economy (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2016). Where standard political economy treats states as singular entities that intervene into economies, I treat states as networks of peculiar enterprises that operate inside a society’s market arrangements. This peculiar quality ramifies throughout a society. To be successful, political enterprises must raise sufficient revenue to return profits to investors. Those profits are disguised through indirect transactions and ideological formulations, but are profits all the same. There is thus a simple explanation for why political enterprises grow relative to commercial enterprises: they grow because they offer higher returns to relevant investors than what those investors could obtain through commercial enterprises. The analytical challenge a theory of entangled political economy must face is to explain the profit-seeking reality of the sub-system of political enterprises that operates inside a society. This essay sets forth the main analytical features of this alternative scheme of political economy, and closes by considering possible implications for efforts to limit the reach of the political within society.

Keywords: Entangled Political Economy, Creative vs. Mechanical Systems, Parasitical Political Pricing, Societal Tectonics, Political Profit-Seeking

JEL Classification: B25, D70, D80, L30

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Richard E., The Peculiar Business of Politics (July 20, 2016). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-27, Available at SSRN: or

Richard E. Wagner (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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(703) 993-1132 (Phone)


George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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