Gordon Tullock Meets Phineas Gage: The Political Economy of Lobotomies in the United States

13 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2018 Last revised: 15 Nov 2018

See all articles by Raymond March

Raymond March

North Dakota State University - Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics; North Dakota State University - NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise

Vincent Geloso

Bates College

Date Written: June 6, 2018

Abstract

In the late 1940s, the United States experienced a “lobotomy boom” where the use of the lobotomy expanded exponentially. We engage in a comparative institutional analysis, following the framework developed by Tullock (2005), to explain why the lobotomy gained popularity and widespread use despite widespread scientific consensus it was ineffective. We argue that government provision and funding for public mental hospitals and asylums expanded and prolonged the use of the lobotomy. We support this claim by noting the lobotomy had virtually disappeared from private mental hospitals and asylums before the boom and was less used beforehand. This paper provides a more robust explanation for the lobotomy boom in the US and expands on the literate examining the relationship between state funding and scientific inquiry.

Keywords: lobotomies, economics of science, public choice, political economy, mental health

Suggested Citation

March, Raymond and Geloso, Vincent, Gordon Tullock Meets Phineas Gage: The Political Economy of Lobotomies in the United States (June 6, 2018). NDSU Public Choice and Private Enterprise Research Paper No. 18-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3188326 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3188326

Raymond March (Contact Author)

North Dakota State University - Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics ( email )

Fargo, ND 58105
United States

North Dakota State University - NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise

811 2nd Ave N.
Fargo, ND 58102
United States

Vincent Geloso

Bates College ( email )

Department of Economics
Lewiston, ME
United States

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