Elements Of Rational Choice Theory

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What are the key elements of Rational Choice Theory?

• Beeson and Firth (1998) ‘Neoliberalism as a political rationality: Australian public policy since the 1980’s’, Journal of Sociology, Vol 34. Pp 215-231

In Beeson and Firth’s article, I gain a further insight into the conception of liberalism and the implementation of rational choice theory, specifically focusing on economic gain and wealth. The authors thoroughly researched the introduction of liberalism in the 1900’s and the resurgence through neo-liberlism in the 1980’s. Rational choice theory was conceived under the notion that individuals have a natural tendency towards growth and a pre-disposed desire for material gain. The first conception of this was in the 19th century, when the
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Hay rigorously argues that Rational Choice Theory should not be used as a singular basis for the conception of Public Policy. Through his in-depth study and analysis of readings on public policy creation, Hay provides us with a strong case on the reasons why Rational Choice Theory does not account for the true nature of human beings. He argues this theory is hidden under the idea of acting altruistically, however it serves only human self-interest, which fails to adhere to the morals of altruism. He uses examples of environmental degradation and the ‘tragedy of the commons’ to prove that “individual rationality translates into collective irrationality”. He further explains that Rational Choice Theory is not to be completely disregarded, as it can be used as a powerful tool to help analyse potential situations. This article is useful to my research topic as it clearly outlines the many limitations of rational choice theory. However, the article has a very strong one-sided argument, and does not give any comparisons of situations where rational choice theory has in fact worked. For this reason, I will need to read further to gain a wider perspective on the …show more content…
Pratt has gained his knowledge through comparisons of recent criminal policies versus research undertaken by criminologists. He highlights the ‘cost-benefit’ analysis that is widely used within rational choice theory when making policies relating to crime control. Pratt argues that this is very limiting when actually analysing criminal behaviour and that research undertaken by Criminologists to reduce crime is often disregarded as it does not fit in with policy-makers ‘cost-benefit’ analysis of a situation. He further argues that policy-makers, to gain political control, often use the language of rational choice theory – that people want to see politicians getting “tougher on crime”, however this does not align with research into the best methods of reducing criminal activity. Therefore, Pratt concludes that Rational Choice Theory is not an effective method of policymaking; rather it is used as a safety blanket for citizens to believe that crime rates are being reduced. This article is useful to my research as it gives examples within a specific area of policymaking of how Rational Choice Theory is applied, and how effective its application is to a particular field. However, it does only provide me with a limited view and I cannot conclude that rational choice theory is an overall ineffective method of policy

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