Rational choice theory
Political conflicts, democratic institutions, public policy and foreign policy
This course deals with positive political economy and rational choice theory applied to the study of political conflicts, democratic institutions and public policy. The course covers the main tools for the study of public choice (rational decision theory, game theory, social choice theory) as well as a number of theoretical and applied topics, including the empirical study of institutions. This course will cover the main topics of positive political economy and institutional public choice. These include: aggregation of preferences; paradoxes and voting cycles; electoral competition and electoral behavior; collective action problems and their solutions; welfare state and redistribution; the impact of information and media on voting behavior and public policy; coalition theory, behavior of parliamentary committees and legislatures, including agenda setting and veto power; principal-agent issues in politics; the domestic bases of foreign policy.
The course is addressed to students of political science and international relations who already have a certain background of political economy, political institutions and public policy. The conversational style of the courses is superb for presenting rational choice theory to tomorrow's political analysts. The course is designed to provide students with a solid conceptual understanding of the subject using modern positive methods and theories. It differs from all other introductory courses by encouraging students to apply these positive theories to explaining current phenomena with a direct impact on their daily lives. At the end of the semester, students should be able to understand how positive political theories help us understand current issues such as the success of extremist parties, conflicts between presidents, governments, parliaments and courts, the power of interest groups, and the negotiation of international treaties.