The Invisible Arm of Government: Some Reflections on the Political Psychology of Public Goods and Services
12 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 12, 2019
This paper argues that the important work of government often goes unnoticed in the public mind because of how public goods and services are experienced psychologically by citizens. Specifically, it suggests that several cognitive mechanisms and biases—habituation, inattentional blindness, negativity bias, attribution error, and present bias—combine to shape public awareness and subjective evaluations of government. These theoretical ideas are illustrated in the case of specific public services, and a few practical ideas are proposed to address the problem. Importantly, these various mechanisms and biases can have important political consequences to the extent they influence preferences for public goods and services in the political process.
Keywords: public goods, government performance, accountability
JEL Classification: H41, H83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation