'Politically (In)correct' Targeting: A Public Choice Analysis

John Cullis, Philip Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Targets have become a key instrument in UK economic policy. Numerical targets, such as the UK target for waiting list times for inpatient treatment, have a rationale in terms of public choice analysis. They appear to be premised on politicians' pursuit of getting elected. However, increasingly they are a target for criticism. This paper provides an assessment of targets in the public sector. It considers the rationale for adopting targets and actors' responses to incentives created by NHS targets. Whilst targets may make short-run political sense and therefore be 'politically correct', from other perspectives they look 'incorrect'. The analysis indicates that, in political processes, credibility gains contingent on target setting are likely to be short-lived and counter-productive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalEconomic Issues
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2007


  • Rent-seeking
  • National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
  • Elections
  • Health
  • Public Health (I180)
  • Regulation
  • Policy Coordination (E610)
  • Policy Objectives
  • Policy Designs and Consistency
  • and Voting Behavior (D720)
  • General (H500)
  • Models of Political Processes
  • Government Policy
  • Legislatures


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