Rational choice theory
This course offers an introduction to positive political economy and rational choice theory applied to the study of political conflicts, democratic institutions, and public policies. The discipline covers the main tools for studying public choice (rational decision theory, game theory, social choice theory) and a number of theoretical and applied topics, including the empirical study of EU institutions. This course will cover the main topics of positive political economy and institutional public choice. These include: aggregation of preferences; voting paradoxes and cycles; electoral competition and behaviour; problems and solutions to collective action; the welfare state and redistribution; the impact of information and money on voting behaviour and public policy; coalition theory, the behaviour of parliamentary committees and legislatures, including agenda setting and veto power; principal-agent problems in politics, bureaucracies and courts.
The course is addressed to students of economics, political science and international relations who already have a certain background of political economy and European Union institutions and policies. The conversational style of lectures is great for presenting the science of rational choice theory to tomorrow's political analysts. The course is designed to provide students with a solid conceptual understanding of the subject by using modern positive methods and theories. It differs from all other introductory courses by encouraging students to apply these positive theories to the explanation of current EU phenomena with a direct impact on their daily lives.
The course follows the structure of traditional rational choice theory courses, while reflecting the conflicts, institutions, and public policies, of the European Union, and adapting the language and cultural references to a European public. For example, the euro is the basic currency referred to throughout the semester, and case studies and examples relate largely to EU institutions and policies. These features are evident when the course deals with lobbying and interest groups in the EU, low turnout in European Parliament elections, coalition formation and qualified majority voting, EU's external trade policy making, the political business cycle and EMU, EU enlargement and Brexit. By the end of the semester, students should be able to understand how positive economic theories help us understand current issues affecting the EU, such as voting, elections, lobbying, delegation, treaty reform, and enlargement.