Public Sector Economics

Keith Baker (University of Southampton United Kingdom)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 29 May 2009



Baker, K. (2009), "Public Sector Economics", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 380-380.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Public Sector Economics is a book that disappoints. It is a beautifully written, comprehensive text but one that requires its readers to be competent economists. Whilst this is not a problem for the economists who are the primary audience of the book, this requirement is likely to deter students and practitioners of public policy who may lack an economics background. This is a great shame as it is this group who would benefit the most from a clear, well‐written textbook on applying economic analysis to public policy. Although it is understandable why the author has omitted a discussion on basic economic principles given the demands of publishing, it would have strengthened the book if this had been included. Such a discussion would have reassured non‐economists and provided a welcome refresher for those who do study economics.

Public Sector Economics is clearly an American textbook (albeit one published by a British publisher) and therefore the examples and practical illustrations included in the book are culled from the policy debates of the United States (USA). As such, the US‐centric focus of Public Sector Economics is likely to disengage non‐Americans for whom references to Social Security, Food Stamps or Federal Income Tax are largely irrelevant. Although there are international examples available on the companion web site, it is disappointing for an international reader that these were not included in the text as their presence would have improved the book considerably. Furthermore, some of the examples on the web site such as the economics of terrorism should have been included in the main text as they are pertinent to current policy debates.

However, the author deserves a great deal of praise for making a serious attempt to provide a comprehensive resource for both instructors, lecturers and students via the companion web site. It is also gratifying to see that the opportunity exists to submit examples and if this facility is used, some of complaints about the US‐centric nature of the book could be mitigated.

In its present form Public Sector Economics is a book by an American economist for American economists. However, this reviewer hopes that a future edition would provide more international examples and would make a greater attempt to be more accessible to non‐economists.

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