Public Governance and the Classical Liberal Perspective

Co-authored with Paul Dragos Aligica and Peter J. Boettke, Oxford University Press 2019 [Oxford, Amazon].



Classical liberalism entails not only a theory about the scope of government and its relationship with the market but also a distinct view about how government should operate within its proper domain of public choices in non-market settings. Building on the political economy principles underpinning the works of diverse authors such as Friedrich Hayek, James Buchanan and Vincent and Elinor Ostrom, this book challenges the technocratic-epistocratic perspective in which social goals are defined by an aggregated social function and experts simply provide the means to attain them. We argue that individualism, freedom of choice, and freedom of association have deep implications on how we design, manage and assess our public governance arrangements.

The book examines the knowledge and incentive problems associated with bureaucratic public administration while contrasting it with democratic governance. We argue that the focus should be on the diversity of opinions in any society regarding “what should be done” and on the design of democratic and polycentric institutions capable of limiting social conflicts and satisfying the preferences of as many people as possible. The book fills a large gap in the academic literature and the public discourse about how we should understand the nature and administration of the public sector.


Public Governance and the ClassicalLiberal Perspective is required reading for economists, political scientists, and political philosophers whose work is broadly related to public administration, management, and institutional analysis. The book is a fine contribution to a vibrant and important literature; I expect it will be well-received and will stimulate several productive scholarly discussions.” — Alexander Salter, Public Choice

“I have given a mostly informal summary of Public Governance and the Classical-Liberal Perspective to provide a feel for its main ideas and temperament. I did this in hopes of sparking interest in the book because I think it should be widely read by people in public administration (of all political persuasions). … [T]he authors should be commended for crafting an intellectually rigorous, thoughtful, and substantive contribution to the development of ideas for a more democratic public administration.” — Gregg G. Van Ryzin, Public Administration Review

“[T]he book is valuable in that it helps not just academics but also interested citizens better understand the classical liberal perspective on public governance. A better understanding of classical liberalism is paramount for citizens in a political climate that is increasingly approaching ‘Orwellian newspeak’ with political propaganda misrepresenting political ideologies. Thus, this book helps correct the notion that classical liberalism is simply ‘laissez‐​faire,’ and shows that it is a perspective that touts and supports the institutions of democratic self‐​governance that allow individuals to live peacefully and freely among each other.” — Jonathan W. Plante, Cato Journal


“This book offers a bold new framework for studying public administration. It incorporates the best ideas that have been developed in the political economy tradition and applies them in innovative ways to perennial problems about governance and the state. A must-read.” — David Skarbek, Brown University

“This is a marvelous and sophisticated restatement of the classical liberal program. Aligica, Boettke, and Tarko demonstrate that classical liberalism, rather than being a doctrine of anti-government, is a sophisticated theory of public governance-one based on the appreciation of individual diversity, institutional complexity, and the resources of civil society.” — Gerald Gaus, James E. Rogers Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona

“Paul Aligica, Peter Boettke and Vlad Tarko take us on an illuminating theoretical and empirical journey in the study of public governance more generally. They explore the multiple layers of both the economic and political institutional framework that can make a society work well and the social choice processes that are available to meet the challenges of polycentric governance and equity. They combine a fresh analytical and historical perspective on understanding the meaning and limits of self-governance and the experience of collective coordination and administration through a careful analysis of themes, issues areas and cases that go beyond the American case. In so doing, they offer a compelling and original account of the evolving relations between classical liberalism and modernity, equity and governance, and democratic versus bureaucratic administration” — Filippo Sabetti, McGill University


New Books Network

– Mercatus Hayek Program Book Panel with Pete Boettke, Eileen Norcross, and Justin Ross.



Part I: A Distinctive Perspective on Governance: The Building Blocks

Chapter 1: Classical Liberalism: Delineating Its Theory of Governance

Chapter 2: Function, Structure, and Process at the Private–Public Interface

Chapter 3: Dynamic Governance: The Polycentrism Process and Knowledge Processes

Part II: Public Choice and Public Administration: The Confluence

Chapter 4: Public Administration and Public Choice: Charting the Field

Chapter 5: Public Choice, Public Administration, and Self-Governance: The Ostromian Confluence

Chapter 6: Heterogeneity, Coproduction, and Polycentric Governance: The Ostroms’ Public Choice Institutionalism Revisited

Part III: Framing the Applied Level: Themes, Issue Areas, and Cases

Chapter 7: Metropolitan Governance: Polycentric Solutions for Complex Problems

Chapter 8: Independent Regulatory Agencies and Their Reform: An Exercise in Institutional Imagination

Chapter 9: Polycentric Stakeholder Analysis: Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility

Conclusions: Governance and Public Management: A Vindication of the Classical-Liberal Perspective?