Micropolitics Revisited


My book, 'Micropolitics' has now been put on line at the Adam Smith Institute. It was published twenty years ago by Wildwood House (Gower). “Micropolitics’ analyzed the process of policy formulation which makes allies of the various interest groups affected by change. Public Choice Theory teaches that politicians and civil servants are not dispassionate administrators for the common good, but self-interested parties who maximize their advantage just as economic participants do.
The Adam Smith Institute was established as a creative counterpart to the critical insights of Public Choice Theory. It sought to research policies which would be tailored to garner the support of those groups who might otherwise oppose them. It is all very well to propose market rents for state houses rather than subsidized rents, but tenants will vote for the latter rather than the former. On the other hand, a one-off sale of the houses to their tenants at a discounted price ends the distortions caused by subsidized rents, and is more likely to secure the political support of the tenants concerned. The benefit is not withdrawn; it is replaced by another.
In the book I set out the thinking behind some of the policies which characterized the Thatcher revolution in Britain, and to some degree those of the Reagan revolution in the United States. It dealt with techniques such as ‘micro-incrementalism’ – policies which gradually replace one state of affairs with another because many people feel more comfortable with gradual, creeping reform.
The approach of ‘Micropolitics’ was attacked by some because they wanted things to become so bad that revolutionary change would be acceptable. Our view was that this probably never happens. “There is a lot of ruin in a nation," as Adam Smith observed. The systematic convergence on a desired goal was held to compromise the need for total and dramatic change. We disagreed. Our view is that we should make advances where and when we can, if they all point in the same direction. Each new status quo achieved will serve as a springboard for the next advance. ‘Micropolitics’ tells how and why.