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Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Economics (ECON)

ECON 407W Political Economy (3) Applications of the tools of game theory to analyze topics in collective decision making.

ECON 407W Political Economy (3)

The course covers two main topics. First, the course will analyze elections as a mechanism to aggregate preferences of the electorate. It will be shown that elections provide a good tool to strike a compromise between all members of the electorate if the scope of disagreement in the electorate is one-dimensional. A simple model of taxation in which citizens' preferences over tax rates are "one-dimensional" in the above sense will be developed. This model will be used to predict how tax rates in democratic countries change with the income distribution. It will be shown next that no satisfaction mechanism of preference aggregation exists in a slightly more general model of taxation. This result is a special case of the famous Impossibility Theorem by Arrow.

Secondly, conditions will be given under which elections are a good mechanism to aggregate information that is spread throughout the electorate. It turns out that theories of information aggregation yield a convincing theory about abstention. A model in which the less informed voters delegate the decision to the more informed voters by simply abstaining will be discussed. The discussion of political debates and the media will be framed in terms of an information aggregation model. Finally, the potential of information aggregation theories to explain social movements will be discussed.

Game theory provides a framework to think about many issues in the social sciences. This particular course focuses on some applications of game theory to politics. The first, and very specific goal, is to use the lens of game theory to understand the workings of various political institutions. The second, more general, goal is to enable students to apply game-theoretic reasoning to a wide range of topics in the social sciences. The third is to make the research frontier in the field of political economy as accessible as possible. It is hoped that students would get a better understanding of what graduate school would be like.

This course has as its broad objective to expose students to the use of the tools of game theory to analyze collective decision making. Students will learn how to use economic theory to analyze real-world situations of collective decision making. They will develop their analytical skills as well as their skills in writing in economics.

The writing-intensive course is one of a series of 400-level writing intensive seminars that the Economics Department is offering to its advanced undergraduates in seven different area of economics. This seminar is in the area of microeconomic theory.

The course will count toward the major and the minor in economics as a 400-level course. Further, it will count toward completion of a module (specialization) in the area of theory and quantitative methods.


General Education: None
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Summer 2008
Prerequisite: ECON 402

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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