Political Science | American Political Controversies:Political Games
Y100 | 28817 | Bianco


POLS Y100: Political Games


Politicians know that politics is predictable.  Franklin Roosevelt
once noted, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens,
you can bet it was planned that way” – or, in Bill Clonton’s version,
“If you see a turtle sitting on a fencepost, he had help getting
there.”  But most Americans, viewing politics from a distance, think
of the political process as a chaotic three-ring circus.  The goal of
this course is to teach students some of what politicians know.

These insights will be built on simple models of human interaction, or
game theory.  Of course, most politicians would rebel at the thought
that their behavior can be reduced to a set of symbols and diagrams.
But they are wrong.  Without thinking of themselves as game theorists,
most people, from politicians to ordinary citizens, behave in ways
that are thoroughly explainable using the theory of games.

This course is designed to be a participatory introduction to game
theory and its applications to American politics.  The goal is to
teach students the basics of game theory, provide them with extensive
hands-on experience in simulations and other activities that bring the
principles of game theory to life, and illustrate the value of these
principles using examples drawn from contemporary American politics.
Throughout the class, the emphasis will be on clear thinking rather
than mathematical exposition.  The course is designed to be taken by
freshmen, and there is no math requirement beyond high school algebra.

Course requirements include class participation, weekly problem sets,
and lab sessions, which will take place during normal class hours.
The text for the class will be Dixit and Nalebuff, The Art of
Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life.