Political Science 339R
Strategy and Politics

Course Syllabus
Winter 2003
TR 9:30-10:45 a.m. in W012 BNSN

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 752 SWKT
Office Hours: TR 2-3 p.m., or by appointment
Phone: 422-9136
e-mail: goodliffe@byu.edu


Home Page
Office Hours
Course Objectives
Academic Honesty and Plagiarism
Other Notes
Required Readings
Course Schedule

Home Page

The home page for Political Science 339 is http://fhss.byu.edu/polsci/Goodliffe/339/. Check the home page often for announcements, corrections, etc.

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons 2-3. I am also available at most other times if you make arrangements with me. I encourage you to come by for any reason whatsoever.


It is understood that students enrolled in this class will have taken at a minimum Political Science 200 (Political Inquiry). Thus, I expect all students to know how to write (a paper). If you have not taken Political Science 200, take this course after you have. It will also be of great benefit to have taken Economics 110 or Political Science 205. Without these prerequisites, it will be more difficult to succeed in this course.

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 seminar. Thus, 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 three types of assignments: reading responses, in-class presentations, and take-home exams.

Before each class, you are required to send me a short email (2-3 paragraphs) for the readings for that class. The email is due at 6 a.m. the day we discuss the material. The first one or two paragraphs should explicate the arguments of the readings, including such things as independent and dependent variables and causal mechanisms; and assess the evidence, summarizing what the data are and how well they support the authors' arguments. The last paragraph needs to show your independent, critical thought, and can take (at least) one of the following four forms:

  1. Intra-class connection. Example: Today’s reading reminded me of the earlier essay by….The connection I see is…Today’s author reads the evidence differently because…
  2. Cross-curriculum connections. Example: Today’s reading got me thinking about a similar problem in my economics class….
  3. Data connections. Example: Today’s reading implied that all politicians are corrupt, yet The New York Times today carried a story about a Senator who was retiring to spend more time with her family, calling into question the author's initial assumption….
  4. Puzzlement. Example: Today’s reading discussed how some interactions are outside the scope of game theory. But we read something earlier by the same author that said that game theory can explain everything. How can these both be right?

Other means, beyond these four forms, of showing your independent thought and analysis will also be fine, provided your thoughts are organized and clearly expressed, and that you are making connections between ideas.

I will provide feedback on how you are doing on the emails at a few points in the semester, but a far better way to have them evaluated is to print them, bring them to class, and use them as the basis for our discussions. Of course, these emails will also be helpful for the take-home exams.

You should submit emails for each reading assignment every day that we have a reading assignment, except when you are leading class discussion. Each student can skip two emails without penalty. You should feel free to discuss the readings together before composing the emails. Collaboration and discussion is encouraged. However, you will be graded on your independence of thought in your analysis, so copying each other’s work will be penalized severely.

As this class will be run as a seminar, students will rotate presenting and leading the discussion of the readings. Presenting students may wish to meet with me before presenting their readings. More details on what I expect in leading class discussion are found here. Since this class is a seminar, students should be ready to engage one another in discussion. Of course, in order to participate, one needs to attend class. Active, collaborative learning not only enhances your education, but is more interesting to both student and instructor.

Class presentations and participation 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. 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 sections 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 that we will go over in class.

The most important point about the 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.


I do not grade on a curve.

I include the following information from the BYU 2002-2003 Undergraduate Catalog which guides how I grade and determine workload:

"The grade given in a course is the teacher's evaluation of the student's performance, achievement, and understanding in that subject as covered in the class. The following adjectives indicate the meaning of the letter grades:
A Excellent
B Good
C Satisfactory
D Minimum passing
E Unacceptable
"Hence, the grade A means that the student's performance, achievement, and understanding were excellent in the portion of the subject covered in the class.
"There are prerequisites that qualify students to be admitted to the more advanced classes offered by a department. A senior has added experience, understanding, and preparation and, consequently, progresses in courses that would have been impossible when the student was a freshman. The level of performance, achievement, and understanding required to qualify for each grade that carries credit (any grade other than E, UW, I, IE, or WE) is higher in a more advanced class than in those classes that precede it, and the student is prepared to work at this higher level" (p. 48).
"The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (p. 46).

Putting these two statements together, the university expects an "average student" to work "much more" than 9 hours a week to receive an 'A' (= "excellence") in a 3 credit-hour course. This is my expectation as well.

This workload has been affirmed by President Bateman in two of his recent devotional addresses. On 7 September 1999, he stated, "It takes approximately three hours of study outside class for every hour in the classroom. If you take 15 hours of credit, you should allocate upward of 45 hours for study per week." On 19 September 2000, he advised, "Study daily--at least three hours for every hour in class."

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

From the Academic Honesty section of the BYU Honor Code: "The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to `be honest.' Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. `President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education' (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim.

"BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct." Read the full version here (parts attached to the original paper syllabus).

A colleague (Professor Mitch Sanders of Notre Dame) has already explicated these issues specifically for political science. Please read here (also attached to the original paper syllabus).

If you write a paper for another course (past or present) that uses the same topic as a paper for this course, you need to approve it with me first, and then you must turn in to me a copy of the paper from your other course.

Other Notes

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU’s policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the University but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (422-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the UAC. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You may contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895, D-282 ASB.

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 discussion questions). 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):

(You can also obtain these books through an on-line bookstore. The following websites search several bookstores simultaneously: TextbookLand.com or AllBookStores.com or Campusbooks4less.com or StudentMarket.com.)

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 for checkout (and to photocopy) in the Department of Political Science office (745 SWKT). As the office keeps regular business hours (8 a.m. - 5 p.m.), please plan ahead to obtain the readings. Some of the articles are available on-line through the link on the title. (You must access them through a BYU computer.)

Rational Choice Theory as Opposed to What?

Gerald Gamm and Kenneth Shepsle. 1989. "Emergence of Legislative Institutions: Standing Committees in the House and Senate, 1810-1825." Legislative Studies Quarterly 14(1):39-66.

Modeling Strategic Interactions

Gary S. Becker. 1976. "The Economic Approach to Human Behavior." In The Economic Approach to Human Behavior. University of Chicago Press.

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

John C. Harsanyi. 1977. "Advances in Understanding Rational Behavior." In Foundational Problems in the Special Sciences, eds. R.E. Butts and J. Hintikka. D. Reidel.

Robert Lowry Clinton. 1994. "Game Theory, Legal History and the Origins of Judicial Review: A Revisionist Analysis of Marbury v. Madison." American Journal of Political Science 38:285-303.

Collective Action

R.H. Coase. 1960. "The Problem of Social Cost." Journal of Law and Economics 3:1-44.

R.H. Coase. 1988. "Notes on the Problem of Social Cost." In The Firm, the Market, and the Law. University of Chicago Press.

Joseph Farrell. 1987. "Information and the Coase Theorem." Journal of Economic Perspectives 1:113-129.

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

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

*Thomas C. Schelling. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. W.W. Norton. [Chapters 4, 5 and 7]

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

Rasma Karklins and Roger Petersen. 1993. "Decision Calculus of Protestors and Regimes: Eastern Europe 1989." Journal of Politics 55:588-615.

Voting and Social Choice I: Legislative Politics

E. Scott Adler. 2002. Why Congressional Reforms Fail: Reelection and the House Committee System. University of Chicago Press. [Chapters 1 and 2]

Kenneth J. Arrow. 1967. "Values and Collective Decision-making." In Philosophy, Politics and Society, Third Series, eds. P. Laslett and W.G. Runciman. Basil Blackwell.

Kenneth A. Shepsle. 1989. "Studying Institutions: Some Lessons from the Rational Choice Approach." Journal of Theoretical Politics 1:131-147.


*Thomas C. Schelling. 1960. The Strategy of Conflict. Harvard University Press.

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


Douglass C. North. 1990. "A Transaction Cost Theory of Politics." Journal of Theoretical Politics 2:355-367.

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

Barry R. Weingast. 1997. "The Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of Law." American Political Science Review 91:245-263.

Jack Knight. 1992. "Models, Interpretations and Theories: Constructing Explanations of Institutional Emergence and Change." In Explaining Social Institutions, eds. Jack Knight and Itai Sened. University of Michigan Press.

Voting and Social Choice II: Democratic Theory

Gary Miller and Thomas Hammond. 1994. "Why Politics is More Fundamental Than Economics: Incentive-Compatible Mechanisms Are Not Credible." Journal of Theoretical Politics 6:5-26.

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

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 and 5]

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

Course Schedule (subject to change)

Date Author(s) Assignments
January 7 Introduction  
9 Gamm and Shepsle  
14 Becker; Schelling  
16 Schelling; Harsanyi  
21 Clinton  
23 Coase  
28 Coase; Farrell  
30 Taylor  
February 4 Taylor  
6 Calvert; Schelling  
11 Schelling; Laitin  
13 Karklins and Petersen First Assignment Distributed
18 No class (Monday)  
20 Adler First Assignment Due
25 Arrow; Shepsle  
27 Schelling  
March 4 Schelling  
6 Elster  
11 Elster  
13 North; Calvert  
18 Weingast  
20 Knight Second Assignment Distributed
25 Miller and Hammond  
27 Riker Second Assignment Due
April 1 Riker  
NOTE! 3 No Class--Midwest  
8 Knight and Johnson  
10 Guinier  
15 Miller Final Assignment Distributed
16-17 Reading Period  
22   Final Assignment Due

Source: This syllabus is mostly taken from various syllabi by James Johnson.

Political Science 339 home page

Jay Goodliffe's home page

This page is http://fhss.byu.edu/polsci/Goodliffe/339/syllabus.htm