Political Science 339R
Strategy and Politics

Course Syllabus
Winter 1998
TTh 1:00-2:15 p.m. in 285 SWKT

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 750 SWKT
Phone: 378-9136
e-mail: jay_goodliffe@byu.edu


Office Hours
Course Objectives
Required Readings
Course Schedule

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Tuesday afternoons 3:00-5:00. I will also be available most other times. In addition, you can reach me by phone and/or e-mail. I encourage you to come by for any reason whatsoever.

Course Objectives

This course is an introduction to rational choice theories and their uses in political science. It will address the logic of rational choice analysis in both positive and normative domains of inquiry. The course is not concerned primarily with imparting the techniques of rational choice analysis, but with exploring the intuitive and theoretical issues that motivate any use of those techniques. The aim of the course is to provide students with a thorough understanding of the issues involved in constructing rational choice analyses. Although the course does not presuppose familiarity with either game theory or the mathematics needed to solve game theoretic problems, some prior knowledge of those topics will be an advantage.

Class attendance is not optional--if you need to miss class, please be prepared to explain why. The course will be run primarily as a lecture. However, I actively encourage questions, interruptions, cries for help, protests of disbelief, etc. Nearly all of the readings for the course are from professional research journals and similar sources (as opposed to pre-digested textbook versions). Consequently, many of you will have occasion to partake in all of these forms of expression during the course of the semester. You will never be penalized for participating--even when this takes the form of vague complaints like, "I've got no clue why we are reading this stuff or why it was written in the first place!" I urge--indeed, I expect--you to take advantage of the chance to talk to with me during office hours.


There are two types of assignments: in-class quizzes and take-home exams. There will be a one-minute quiz at the beginning of every class. The quiz will have one short-answer question relating to the main point(s) of the reading(s) for that day's class. If you have done the reading, the quiz should be easy. If you come late to class or miss class altogether, you cannot make up the quiz--you receive a zero. However, since everyone has difficulties at one time or another (though no one can blame the Kimball Tower elevators this semester), I will drop the two lowest quizzes for the semester. The quizzes will count for 25% of your grade for the course.

There will be three take-home exams to be distributed and due as noted on the schedule that follows. Each exam will count for 25% of your grade for the course. I do not grade on a curve. You can anticipate having to write approximately ten typed pages for each assignment. I will distribute exams during class on the specified days. Each exam will be due one week after it is distributed. Each exam will consist of several specific questions that deal primarily with themes from the immediately preceding section or two of the course; the questions may, however, require that you draw connections to readings assigned during earlier sections. I preface each exam by a set of specific instructions which we will go over in class.

The most important point about the written assignments for the course is that they must be on time. I will not accept late assignments. That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting an assignment when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is distributed so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement.

Required Readings

It is essential that you keep up with the reading. Indeed, I expect you to have completed reading assignments before the class in which we discuss it (thus, the quizzes). The exams draw directly on the required readings. Required texts for the course are available at the University Bookstore (they are also on two-hour reserve at the Lee Library):

Required readings for the course are listed below in the order in which we will read them. Books marked * are the required texts. The remainder of the readings are available to photocopy in the Department of Political Science office (745 SWKT) in the mailboxes in a box marked "PlSc 339R Readings".

Rational Choice Theory as Opposed to What?

Gerald Gamm and Kenneth Shepsle. 1989. "Emergence of Legislative Institutions." Legislative Studies Quarterly 14:39-66.

Modeling Strategic Interactions

Thomas Schelling. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. W.W. Norton. [Chapters 1 and 3]

John Harsanyi. 1977. "Advances in Understanding Rational Behavior." In Rational Choice, ed. Jon Elster. NYU Press, 1986.

Robert Clinton. 1994. "Game Theory, Legal History and the Origins of Judicial Review." American Journal of Political Science 38:285-303.

Understanding The Possibility of Cooperation

*Michael Taylor. 1987. The Possibility of Cooperation. Cambridge University Press.

Randall L. Calvert. 1992. "Leadership and Its Basis in Problems of Social Coordination." International Review of Political Science 13:7-24.

Thomas Schelling. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. W.W. Norton. [Chapter 7]

David Laitin. 1994. "The Tower of Babel as a Coordination Game." American Political Science Review 88:622-34.

Rasma Karklins and Roger Petersen. 1993. "Decision Calculus of Protestors and Regimes." Journal of Politics 55:588-615.


*Thomas Schelling. 1960. The Strategy of Conflict. Harvard University Press. [Chapters 1-5]

Jon Elster. 1989. The Cement of Society. Cambridge University Press. [Chapters 2 & 4]


Randall Calvert. 1995. "The Rational Choice Theory of Social Institutions." In Modern Political Economy, eds. Jeffrey S. Banks and Eric A. Hanushek. Cambridge University Press.

*Jack Knight. 1992. Institutions and Social Conflict. Cambridge University Press.

Jack Knight. 1992. "Models, Interpretations and Theories." In Explaining Social Institutions, eds. Jack Knight and Itai Sened. University of Michigan Press.

Voting and Social Choice I: Legislative Politics

Kenneth J. Arrow. 1983. Collected Papers of Kenneth Arrow, Volume 1: Social Choice and Justice. Harvard University Press. [Chapters 4 & 12]

Keith Krehbiel. 1988. "Spatial Models of Legislative Choice." Legislative Studies Quarterly 8:259-319.

Voting and Social Choice II: Democratic Theory

*William Riker. 1982. Liberalism Against Populism. Waveland.

Gary Miller and Thomas Hammond. 1994. "Why Politics is More Fundamental Than Economics." Journal of Theoretical Politics 6:5-26.

Jack Knight and James Johnson. 1994. "Aggregation and Deliberation: On the Possibility of Democratic Legitimacy." Political Theory 22:277-97.

Voting and Social Choice III: Minority Representation

Lani Guinier. 1994. The Tyranny of the Majority. Free Press. [Chapters 4 & 5]

Joshua Clinton. 1996. "Fair Representation." (Unpublished ms.)

Nicholas R. Miller. 1996. "Majority Rule and Minority Interests." In Political Order, eds. Ian Shapiro and Russell Hardin. NYU Press.


*Gary Miller. 1992. Managerial Dilemmas. Cambridge University Press.

Course Schedule (subject to change)

Date Author(s) Assignments
January 6 Introduction  
8 Gamm and Shepsle  
13 Schelling  
15 Schelling; Harsanyi  
20 Harsanyi  
22 R. Clinton  
27 Taylor  
29 Taylor; Calvert  
February 3 Schelling; Laitin  
5 Karklins and Petersen First Assignment Distributed
10 Schelling  
12 Elster First Assignment Due
17 No class (Monday)  
19 Elster  
24 Calvert  
26 Knight (book)  
March 3 Knight (paper)  
5 Arrow  
10 Krehbiel Second Assignment Distributed
12 Krehbiel  
17 Riker Second Assignment Due
19 Riker  
24 Miller and Hammond  
26 Knight and Johnson  
31 Guinier  
April 2 J. Clinton  
7 N. Miller  
9 G. Miller  
14 Review Final Assignment Distributed
15-16 Reading Period  
21   Final Assignment Due