Behavioral Public Choice: The Behavioral Paradox of Government Policy

40 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2018

See all articles by Kip Viscusi

Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University

Ted Gayer

Brookings Institution

Date Written: 03/31/2015


Although government agencies increasingly use behavioral irrationalities as a justification for government intervention, the paradox is that these same government policies are also subject to similar behavioral inadequacies across a broad range of policies. This article develops an analysis of behavioral public choice in which we recognize that government officials are human and subject to behavioral anomalies and to public choice incentives that could further lead to welfare-reducing policies. Moreover, the existence of behavioral failures by the general public will lead to public pressures on government agencies to foster policies in response to these behavioral inadequacies. This article presents a series of policy examples indicating how government policies as well are subject to behavioral and political biases.

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, Kip and Gayer, Ted, Behavioral Public Choice: The Behavioral Paradox of Government Policy (03/31/2015). MERCATUS WORKING PAPER, Available at SSRN: or

Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Ted Gayer

Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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