Government in Missouri
This policy study undertakes a broad review of Missouri’s state and local governmental structure, as viewed from the perspective of public choice economics. It applies various economic theories, as well as insights from the broader world of political science, to Missouri’s present system of government and politics. Throughout the study, the term “government” refers to the exact bodies and officials that compose it, rather than to more theoretical ideas regarding the role it should have in our lives. In order to facilitate an analysis of Missouri government, this study first provides a detailed outline of how the state’s many government units are structured, including legislative bodies and elected officials at the state, county, township, and municipal levels. It then compares Missouri’s governments to those of other states, counties, and cities — particularly in Pennsylvania. This study particularly focuses on the theories of public choice economics, a branch that studies the institutional incentives of government and politics. The analysis considers several prevailing public choice theories and gauges their applicability to the specific cases present in Missouri: whether larger legislatures lead to increased spending; whether at-large legislative bodies spend less than districted bodies; and, whether a given jurisdiction can have both too many and too few elected officials. The resulting data is compared to observed spending levels within Missouri governments. This study’s findings include proof of the economies of scale that occur when measuring spending within smaller Missouri counties. They also describe the lack of any hard proof of relative overspending in the city of Saint Louis, despite strong theoretical indications that such proof might be found. The author concludes the study with recommendations for ways to improve the quality and efficiency of government in Missouri.