Charles Troup

Charles Troup's picture
Ph.D Student

My research seeks to account for how British public officials could have adopted cost-benefit analysis as a practice of representative governing. In Britain and many other European polities today, cost-benefit analysis is an important part of how agents of government reach decisions about how to use their powers in the interests of the people subject to them. In this practice, officials evaluate every potential policy or program by measuring the goods and harms which each will confer upon subjects; translating the value of these into an amount of money, where they do not initially appear in that register; then finally subtracting the aggregated costs from the benefits of each potential course of government action, to deduce which would have the political community deploy its resources most efficiently, and therefore represent the economically rational way for it to act.
My research seeks to account for how modern democratic polities could have developed these unusual, technocratic practices of representation. My dissertation asks why French political economists first articulated this vision of representative governing in the 1840s, before British political economists picked it up in the 1890s. It asks why British public officials first brought the practice into government in the first decade after the Second World War, in the transport sector first. And it asks why officials and scholars alike since the 1990s have invested so much effort in adapting the efficiency paradigm of public decision-making to conceptual challenges, like those which wealth inequality and ecological destruction have posed to it. Ultimately, my research seeks to understand how European societies arrived at the governance practices which they manifest today. Ultimately, my research interrogates how European societies have enacted the ideal of representative governing in practice, and how they have arrived at the forms of governance which predominate today.

Fields of Interest: 
History of governance and democracy; Western Europe and especially Britain