Rational choices: understanding EU politics
This course deals with positive political economy and rational choice theory applied to the study of political conflicts, democratic institutions and public policies in the European Union. The course covers the main tools for the study of public choice (rational decision theory, game theory, social choice theory) and a number of theoretical and applied topics, focused on the empirical study of the EU institutions. This course will cover the main topics of positive political economy and institutional public choice. These include: preference aggregation; voting paradoxes and cycles; electoral competition and electoral behaviour; problems and solutions to collective action; the welfare state and redistribution; the impact of information and the media on voting behaviour and public policies; coalition theory, the behavior of parliamentary committees and legislatures, including agenda-setting and veto power; principal-agent issues in politics; models of bureaucracy.
The course is aimed at students of political science and international relations who already have a certain background in political economy and the European Union. The conversational style of the lectures is superb for presenting the science of rational choice theory to the political actors and analysts of tomorrow. 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 explain current EU phenomena with a direct impact on their daily lives.
The course follows the structure of traditional rational choice theory courses, while focusing on the conflicts, institutions and public policies of the European Union and adapting the language and cultural references to a European audience. For example, case studies and examples relate largely to EU institutions and policies. These features are apparent when the course deals with lobbying and interest groups in the EU, turnout in European elections, coalition formation and qualified-majority voting, EU's foreign trade policy making, the political business cycle and Economic and Monetary Union, the theory clubs and Brexit.
By the end of the semester, students should be able to understand how positive political economic theories help us understand current European Union issues such as voting, elections, lobbying, delegation, EU external trade policy, the ECB and the euro, EU institutional reform, enlargement and Brexit.