Public choice approach or the public choice theory is a novel approach to study bureaucracy developed by American economists in the second half of the twentieth century – in mid 1960s. The founding fathers of public choice theory include Kenetth Arrow Duncan Black, James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Anthony Downs, William Niskanen, Mancur Olson, and William Riker. Public choice has revolutionized the study of democratic decision-making processes.
Public choice approach is best defined as application of the rational choice model to non-market decision making – application of laws of economics to political science. It supports the neo-liberal policies. It is against the welfare state.
This theory challenges the Weber‘s approach towards the bureaucracy. This approach assumes that decision making in government is based on unselfish motives. Bureaucrats are unselfish.
Public choice theory criticizes this approach. They say that the bureaucrats are inefficient and unresponsive – and this is because bureaucracy is not subject to market forces.
Choice implies competition. Public choice theory wants competition into public administration in order to make it efficient and responsive.
There is no correlation between public revenue and expenditure. The civil servant has little incentive to minimize the costs and maximize profits. Bureaucrat is a budget maximiser. The monopoly of bureaucracy must be reduced by exploring private sources of supply of public services.
Increasing dissatisfaction with the performance of the bureaucracy stands in sharp contrast to the success of the private sector. It believes in market values. It is against monopolies. Public choice theory wants to abolish the monopoly of the government in the supply of public services.