Social choice theory critically assesses and rationally designs economic mechanisms for improving human well-being. Kotaro Suzumura—one of the world’s foremost thinkers in social choice theory and welfare economics—fuses abstract ideas with real-world economies to examine foundational issues of normative economics and collective decision making.
Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement is a theoretical study of the dynamics of public-spirited collective action as well as a substantial study of the American civil rights movement and the local and national politics that surrounded it. In this major historical application of rational choice theory to a social movement, Dennis Chong reexamines the problem of organizing collective action by focusing on the social, psychological, and moral incentives of political activism that are often neglected by rational choice theorists. Using game theoretic concepts as well as dynamic models, he explores how rational individuals decide to participate in social movements and how these individual decisions translate into collective outcomes. In addition to applying formal modeling to the puzzling and important social phenomenon of collective action, he offers persuasive insights into the political and psychological dynamics that provoke and sustain public activism. This remarkably accessible study demonstrates how the civil rights movement succeeded against difficult odds by mobilizing community resources, resisting powerful opposition, and winning concessions from the government.
Originally published in 1970, this classic study has been recognized for its groundbreaking role in integrating economics and ethics, and for its influence in opening up new areas of research in social choice, including aggregative assessment. It has also had a large influence on international organizations, including the United Nations, notably in its work on human development. The book showed that the “impossibility theorems” in social choice theory—led by the pioneering work of Kenneth Arrow—do not negate the possibility of reasoned and democratic social choice.
Sen’s ideas about social choice, welfare economics, inequality, poverty, and human rights have continued to evolve since the book’s first appearance. This expanded edition preserves the text of the original while presenting eleven new chapters of fresh arguments and results.
“Expanding on the early work of Condorcet, Pareto, Arrow, and others, Sen provides rigorous mathematical argumentation on the merits of voting mechanisms…For those with graduate training, it will serve as a frequently consulted reference and a necessity on one’s book shelf.”
—J. F. O’Connell, Choice
Skillfully blending historical data with microeconomic theory, Glenn Parker argues that the incentives for congressional service have declined over the years, and that with that decline has come a change in the kind of person who seeks to enter Congress. The decline in the attractiveness of Congress is a consequence of congressional careerists and of the growth in the rent-seeking society, a term which describes the efforts of special interests to obtain preferential treatment by using the machinery of government--legislation and regulations.
Parker provides a fresh and controversial perspective to the debate surrounding the relative merits of career or amateur politicians. He argues that driving career politicians from office can have pernicious effects on the political system: it places the running of Congress in the hands of amateur politicians, who stand to lose little if they are found engaging in illegal or quasi-legal practices. On the other hand, career legislators risk all they have invested in their long careers in public service if they engage in unsavory practices. As Parker develops this controversial argument, he provides a fresh perspective on the debate surrounding the value of career versus amateur politicians.
Little attention has been given to the long-term impact of a rent-seeking society on the evolution of political institutions. Parker examines empirically and finds support for hypotheses that reflect potential symptoms of adverse selection in the composition of Congress: (1) rent-seeking politicians are more inclined than others to manipulate institutional arrangements for financial gain; (2) the rent-seeking milieu of legislators are more likely to engage in rent-seeking activity than earlier generations; (3) and the growth of rent-seeking activity has hastened the departure of career legislators.
Glenn R. Parker is Distinguished Research Professor, Florida State University.
Richard Tuck Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress HB846.8.T78 2008 | Dewey Decimal 302.13
One individual’s contribution to a large collective project—such as voting in a national election or contributing to a public television fund-raising campaign—often seems negligible. A striking proposition of contemporary economics and political science is that it would be an exercise of reason, not a failure of it, not to contribute to a collective project if the contribution is negligible, but to benefit from it nonetheless.
But Richard Tuck wonders whether this phenomenon of free riding is a timeless aspect of human nature or a recent, historically contingent one. He argues for the latter, showing that the notion would have seemed strange to people in the nineteenth century and earlier and that the concept only became accepted when the idea of perfect competition took hold in economics in the early twentieth century.
Tuck makes careful distinctions between the prisoner’s dilemma problem, threshold phenomena such as voting, and free riding. He analyzes the notion of negligibility, and shows some of the logical difficulties in the idea—and how the ancient paradox of the sorites illustrates the difficulties.
Tuck presents a bold challenge to the skeptical account of social cooperation so widely held today. If accepted, his argument may over time encourage more public-spirited behavior.
There is no unified theory that can explain both voter choice and where choices come from. Hinich and Munger fill that gap with their model of political communication based on ideology.
Rather than beginning with voters and diffuse, atomistic preferences, Hinich and Munger explore why large groups of voters share preference profiles, why they consider themselves "liberals" or "conservatives." The reasons, they argue, lie in the twin problems of communication and commitment that politicians face. Voters, overloaded with information, ignore specific platform positions. Parties and candidates therefore communicate through simple statements of goals, analogies, and by invoking political symbols. But politicians must also commit to pursuing the actions implied by these analogies and symbols. Commitment requires that ideologies be used consistently, particularly when it is not in the party's short-run interest.
The model Hinich and Munger develop accounts for the choices of voters, the goals of politicians, and the interests of contributors. It is an important addition to political science and essential reading for all in that discipline.
"Hinich and Munger's study of ideology and the theory of political choice is a pioneering effort to integrate ideology into formal political theory. It is a major step in directing attention toward the way in which ideology influences the nature of political choices." --Douglass C. North
". . . represents a significant contribution to the literature on elections, voting behavior, and social choice." --Policy Currents
Melvin Hinich is Professor of Government, University of Texas. Michael C. Munger is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina.
In Law and Public Choice, Daniel Farber and Philip Frickey present a remarkably rich
and accessible introduction to the driving principles of public choice. In this, the first
systematic look at the implications of social choice for legal doctrine, Farber and Frickey
carefully review both the empirical and theoretical literature about interest group influence and provide a nonmathematical introduction to formal models of legislative action. Ideal for course use, this volume offers a balanced and perceptive analysis and critique of an approach which, within limits, can illuminate the dynamics of government decision-making.
“Law and Public Choice is a most valuable contribution to the burgeoning literature. It
should be of great interest to lawyers, political scientists, and all others interested in issues at the intersection of government and law.”—Cass R. Sunstein, University of Chicago Law
The Limits of Rationality
Edited by Karen Schweers Cook and Margaret Levi University of Chicago Press, 1990 Library of Congress HM101.L495 1990 | Dewey Decimal 303.4
Prevailing economic theory presumes that agents act rationally when they make decisions, striving to maximize the efficient use of their resources. Psychology has repeatedly challenged the rational choice paradigm with persuasive evidence that people do not always make the optimal choice. Yet the paradigm has proven so successful a predictor that its use continues to flourish, fueled by debate across the social sciences over why it works so well.
Intended to introduce novices to rational choice theory, this accessible, interdisciplinary book collects writings by leading researchers. The Limits of Rationality illuminates the rational choice paradigm of social and political behavior itself, identifies its limitations, clarifies the nature of current controversies, and offers suggestions for improving current models.
In the first section of the book, contributors consider the theoretical foundations of rational choice. Models of rational choice play an important role in providing a standard of human action and the bases for constitutional design, but do they also succeed as explanatory models of behavior? Do empirical failures of these explanatory models constitute a telling condemnation of rational choice theory or do they open new avenues of investigation and theorizing?
Emphasizing analyses of norms and institutions, the second and third sections of the book investigate areas in which rational choice theory might be extended in order to provide better models. The contributors evaluate the adequacy of analyses based on neoclassical economics, the potential contributions of game theory and cognitive science, and the consequences for the basic framework when unequal bargaining power and hierarchy are introduced.
Local Justice in America
Jon Elster Russell Sage Foundation, 1995 Library of Congress HM216.L63 1995 | Dewey Decimal 303.372
Notions of justice and fairness are central to the American belief that the pursuit of a healthy and productive life is the right of all citizens. Yet in the real world there are seldom sufficient resources to meet the needs of everyone, and institutions are routinely forced to make difficult decisions regarding who will be favored and who will not. Local Justice in America is an insightful look into how selections are made in four critical areas: college admissions, kidney transplants, employee layoffs, and legalized immigration. This volume's case studies survey the history and modern rationale behind seemingly enigmatic allocation systems, chronicling the political and ethical debates, occasional scandals, and judicial battles that have shaped them. Though these selection processes differ significantly, each reflects a bitter struggle between opposing—and equally intense—principles of local justice. For example, are admissions officers who use special points to foster student diversity less fair than those who rely exclusively on scholastic achievement? How did the system of personal discretion among doctors selecting transplant patients come to be viewed by the public as more inequitable than compassionate? Does the use of seniority as a gauge in layoffs violate equal opportunity laws or provide employers with their only objective and neutral criterion? How have partisan interest groups repeatedly shifted immigration quotas between the extremes of xenophobia and altruism? In framing chapters, editor Jon Elster draws upon these studies to speculate on the unique nature of the American value system. Arguing that race matters deeply in all considerations of local justice, he discusses how our society's assessment of neediness balances on the often uneasy compromises between the desire to reward deserving individuals and the call to strengthen opportunities for disadvantaged groups. Well informed and stimulating, Local Justice in America speaks directly to policy debates in the fields of health, education, work, and immigration, and makes an important contribution to our understanding of the fundamental social issues that affect our daily welfare.
Positive Political Theory I is concerned with the formal theory of preference aggregation for collective choice. The theory is developed as generally as possible, covering classes of aggregation methods that include such well-known examples as majority and unanimity rule and focusing in particular on the extent to which any aggregation method is assured to yield a set of "best" alternatives. The book is intended both as a contribution to the theory of collective choice and a pedagogic tool.
Austen-Smith and Banks have made the exposition both rigorous and accessible to people with some technical background (e.g., a course in multivariate calculus). The intended readership ranges from more technically-oriented graduate students and specialists to those students in economics and political science interested less in the technical aspects of the results than in the depth, scope, and importance of the theoretical advances in positive political theory.
"This is a stunning book. Austen-Smith and Banks have a deep understanding of the material, and their text gives a powerfully unified and coherent perspective on a vast literature. The exposition is clear-eyed and efficient but never humdrum. Even those familiar with the subject will find trenchant remarks and fresh insights every few pages. Anyone with an interest in contemporary liberal democratic theory will want this book on the shelf." --Christopher Achen, University of Michigan
David Austen-Smith is Professor of Political Science, Professor of Economics, and Professor of Management and Strategy, Northwestern University. Jeffrey S. Banks is Professor of Political Science, California Institute of Technology.
“ A major piece of work . . . a classic. There is no
other book like it.”
— Norman Schofield, Washington University
“ The authors succeed brilliantly in tackling a large
number of important questions concerning the
interaction among voters and elected representatives
in the political arena, using a common, rigorous
— Antonio Merlo, University of Pennsylvania
Positive Political Theory II: Strategy and Structure
is the second volume in Jeffrey Banks and David
Austen-Smith’ s monumental study of the links
between individual preferences and collective choice.
The book focuses on representative systems, including
both elections and legislative decision-making
processes, clearly connecting individual preferences to
collective outcomes. This book is not a survey. Rather,
it is the coherent, cumulative result of the authors’
brilliant efforts to indirectly connect preferences to
collective choice through strategic behaviors such as
agenda-selection and voting.
The book will be an invaluable reference and teaching
tool for economists and political scientists, and an
essential companion to any scholar interested in the
latest theoretical advances in positive political theory.
Rationality and Freedom
Amartya Sen Harvard University Press, 2002 Library of Congress HB846.8.S466 2002 | Dewey Decimal 302.13
Rationality and freedom are among the most profound and contentious concepts in philosophy and the social sciences. In two volumes on rationality, freedom, and justice, the distinguished economist and philosopher Amartya Sen brings clarity and insight to these difficult issues. This volume—the first of the two—is principally concerned with rationality and freedom.
Sen scrutinizes and departs from the standard criteria of rationality, and shows how it can be seen in terms of subjecting one’s values as well as choices to the demands of reason and critical scrutiny. This capacious approach is utilized to illuminate the demands of rationality in individual choice (including decisions under uncertainty) as well as social choice (including cost benefit analysis and environmental assessment).
Identifying a reciprocity in the relationship between rationality and freedom, Sen argues that freedom cannot be assessed independently of a person’s reasoned preferences and valuations, just as rationality, in turn, requires freedom of thought. Sen uses the discipline of social choice theory (a subject he has helped to develop) to illuminate the demands of reason and the assessment of freedom. The latter is the subject matter of Sen’s previously unpublished Arrow Lectures included here.
The essays in these volumes contribute to Sen’s ongoing transformation of economic theory and social philosophy, and to our understanding of the connections among rationality, freedom, and social justice.
The first classroom book for undergraduate courses in public choice analysis, covering both political economy and social choice issues
Public choice analysis applies the methodology of economics to issues in political science and the policy process. The readings in this anthology cover topics in both institutional political economy and social choice theory and are comprehensible to nonspecialists and advanced undergraduates with a background in basic economic theory. Readings are taken from academic journals and book chapters and are reproduced in their entirety. They are selected to ensure they contain a minimal amount of notation and are free of advanced econometrics.
The anthology contains two to three readings each to explore the areas of rent seeking, collective action, bureaucracy, elections and the economy, choosing decision rules, majority rule, alternative voting procedures, and the calculus of voting. Each part contains a brief introduction to the general theme, and questions are presented as a guide to each reading. Additional suggested readings are provided to develop these concepts further.
Jac C. Heckelman is Associate Professor of Economics, Wake Forest University.
Most models of political decision-making maintain that individual preferences remain relatively constant. Why, then, are there often sudden abrupt changes in public opinion on political issues? Or total reversals by politicians on specific issues? Bryan D. Jones answers these questions by innovatively connecting insights from cognitive science and rational choice theory to political life.
Individuals and political systems alike, Jones argues, tend to be attentive to only one issue at a time. Using numerous examples from elections, public opinion polls, congressional deliberations, and of bureaucratic decision-making, he shows how shifting attentiveness can and does alter choices and political outcomes—even when underlying preferences remain relatively fixed. An individual, for example, may initially decide to vote for a candidate because of her stand on spending but change his vote when he learns of her position on abortion, never really balancing the two options.
Why do we volunteer time? Why do we contribute money? Why, even, do we vote, if the effect of a single vote is negligible? Rationality-based microeconomic models are hard-pressed to explain such social behavior, but Howard Margolis proposes a solution. He suggests that within each person there are two selves, one selfish and the other group-oriented, and that the individual follows a Darwinian rule for allocating resources between those two selves.
"Howard Margolis's intriguing ideas . . . provide an alternative to the crude models of rational choice that have dominated economics and political science for too long."—Times Literary Supplement
All of the essays in this new collection by Thomas Schelling convey his unique perspective on individuals and society. This perspective has several characteristics: it is strategic in that it assumes that an important part of people’s behavior is motivated by the thought of influencing other people’s expectations; it views the mind as being separable into two or more parts (rational/irrational; present-minded/future-minded); it is motivated by policy concerns—smoking and other addictions, global warming, segregation, nuclear war; and while it accepts many of the basic assumptions of economics—that people are forward-looking, rational decision makers, that resources are scarce, and that incentives are important—it is open to modifying them when appropriate, and open to the findings and insights of other social science disciplines.
Schelling, a 2005 Nobel Prize winner, has been one of the four or five most important social scientists of the past fifty years, and this collection shows why.
The Theory of Public Choice - II
James M. Buchanan and Robert D. Tollison, Editors University of Michigan Press, 1984 Library of Congress HJ192.T47 1984 | Dewey Decimal 330
That economics can usefully explain politics is no longer a novel idea, it is a well-established fact brought about by the work of many public choice scholars. This book, which is a sequel to a similar volume published in 1972, brings together a fresh collection of recent work in the public choice tradition. The essays demonstrate the power of the public choice approach in the analysis of government. Among the issues considered are income redistribution, fiscal limitations on government, voting rules and processes, the demand for public goods, the political business cycle, international negotiations, interest groups, and legislators.
James M. Buchanan is University Distinguished Professor and direct, Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.
Robert D. Tollison, formerly director, Bureau of Economics, Federal Trade Commission, is now Abney Professor of Economics at Clemson University.
The Tyranny of the Market
Joel Waldfogel Harvard University Press, 2007 Library of Congress HF5415.32.W35 2007 | Dewey Decimal 381
Economists have long counseled reliance on markets rather than on government to decide a wide range of questions, in part because allocation through voting can give rise to a "tyranny of the majority." Markets, by contrast, are believed to make products available to suit any individual, regardless of what others want. But the argument is not generally correct. In markets, you can't always get what you want. This book explores why this is so and its consequences for consumers with atypical preferences.
With increased awareness of the role of plans in shaping urban and suburban landscapes has come increased criticism of planners and the planning profession. Developers, politicians, and citizens alike blame "poor planning" for a host of community ills. But what are plans really supposed to do? How do they work? What problems can they successfully address, and what is beyond their scope? In Urban Development, leading planning scholar Lewis Hopkins tackles these thorny issues as he explains the logic of plans for urban development and justifies prescriptions about when and how to make them. He explores the concepts behind plans, some that are widely accepted but seldom examined, and others that modify conventional wisdom about the use and usefulness of plans. The book: places the role of plans and planners within the complex system of urban development offers examples from the history of plans and planning discusses when plans should be made (and when they should not be made) gives a realistic idea of what can be expected from plans examines ways of gauging the success or failure of plansThe author supports his explanations with graphics, case examples, and hypothetical illustrations that enliven, clarify, and make concrete the discussions of how decisions about plans are and should be made.Urban Development will give all those involved with planning human settlements a more thorough understanding of why and how plans are made, enabling them to make better choices about using and making plans. It is an important contribution that will be essential for students and faculty in planning theory, land use planning, and planning project courses.