Political Science | Political Decision Making
Y391 | 3568 | Williams
This course centers on the collective action problem within the
context of established institutional frameworks. It begins with analysis of
the requisites of collective action, and models of political parties and
elections based on Downs' An Economic Theory of Democracy. Next, we examine
the use of voting as a collective choice mechanism in Riker's Liberalism
Against Populism. Riker provides an excellent presentation of the
implications of Arrow's Theorem, which identifies logical dilemmas
associated with any effort to base collective actions on individuals'
expressions of preference. We will consider some major responses to these
problems, specifically Shepsle's models of legislative institutions, as well
as some general results of empirical research on voting in mass elections.
We will compare Riker's conclusion that social choice theory raises
fundamental doubts about the normative "meaning" of the outcomes of
democratic processes to John Rawls' demonstration, in A Theory of Justice,
that certain principles of justice constitute the "rational" basis for the
fundamental structure of a democratic society.