Over recent decades we have witnessed an increasingly widespread demand for greater individual empowerment concerning choice among public and private programmes. This has been accompanied by an increasing interest for vouchers, i.e., documents that confer the right to receive a service or a good worth a given value. This tool presents intermediate features with respect to money and direct supply of services: its possessor enjoys a range of choices limited by allowable alternative uses. But why should it be a good idea to restrict individual freedom of choice? According to Beltrametti, the voucher approach is justifiable when the market is imperfect due to information asymmetries, forms of paternalism, or individuals' inability to manage greater freedom in a rational manner. The author explores the debate concerning the use of vouchers and draws interesting conclusions through an exacting analysis - clear and not excessively technical - that even non-economists and social policy professionals can easily understand.
The volume analyses the reasons that justify the restriction of individual freedom of choice; describes what a voucher is and what effects it produces for its beneficiary; examines the use of vouchers in public policy arenas (aid programmes, education, housing, employment, training); investigates the use of vouchers among private actors (labour and business-consumer relationships). The book ends with an evaluation of the implications of new digital technologies on the current and future nature of vouchers, and a discussion of implementation policies.
Luca Beltrametti teaches Political Economy in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Genoa.