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An economic theory of politics is applied to the question of why there are large differences in effective rates of assistance to Australia's rural industries. It is suggested that a major part of the explanation is the different incentives faced by industry lobby groups to demand assistance and by the government to supply assistance. Various determinants of the incentives to demand and supply assistance are hypothesized, and these hypotheses are tested against the existing pattern of rural assistance. The evidence generally supports the hypotheses, and suggests some policy changes to reduce existing government distortions.


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