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PSC 1002 Introduction to American Politics Week 1 Notes

by: Caroline Jok

PSC 1002 Introduction to American Politics Week 1 Notes PSC 1002

Marketplace > George Washington University > PSC 1002 > PSC 1002 Introduction to American Politics Week 1 Notes
Caroline Jok
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In-Class Notes, & Notes on Assigned Readings PSC 1002 Political Science Dr. John Sides Elliot 213 Introduction to American Politics The George Washington University
Intro to American Politics and Government
John Sides
Class Notes
political science, America, Trump, Sanders, Election, Politics, George Washington University, John Sides, Elliot




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This 11 page Class Notes was uploaded by Caroline Jok on Thursday January 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSC 1002 at George Washington University taught by John Sides in Spring2015. Since its upload, it has received 126 views.


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Date Created: 01/14/16
WEEK 1 NOTES Introduction to American Politics Caroline E. Jok The George Washington University Class ~ Day 1 Come visit! Mondays 2-4 pm (Monroe Hall) Keep up with current American Politics Quizzes daily -- 5 dropped No Laptops during class :( -- Take Notes Send Song suggestions :) ------ 1st chapter of the Logic book What is politics? The process of making collective decisions despite different preferences Why is collective action hard? The challenge of coordination When people are better off not contributing to collective action (prisoner's dilemma) How can we solve the collective action problem? (institutions/rules i.e. government) Designing institutions means balancing conformity costs and transaction How do we reconcile divergent preferences to arrive at a decision? Will always be about disagreement and conflict Will always be about bargaining and compromise Inevitably going to have winners and losers. Collective action: Challenging to coordinate everyone's efforts -- Uncertain as far as intentions go, incomplete information Prisoners dilemma - direct conflict between what is best for the group vs. one individual. Free rider problem Class ~ Day 2 Review: What is Politics? The Process of making collective decisions despite different preferences • Prisoner's Dilemma: Why is collective action hard? (the Challenge of collective action/prisoners dilemma) Free Rider Issue: • Is your vote going to elect (insert candidates name) o Your vote doesn't count in terms of determining the winner… so why vote? o Voting = free riding dilemma o Can Sanders & Trump translate this support into votes at the caucuses? • Going to speeches/rallies is NOT a free riding dilemma • Going to caucuses takes time and money… Is it worth it? <-- How the collective action problem is manifested • Trump's supporters don't have a reputation for being regular voters or caucus voters. Tragedy of the commons: • The Free Rider Policy: can we create/achieve something that wouldn't happen if we don't do anything? • The Tragedy of commons: can we preserve something through collective actions? • Commons: Space for animals to graze o Issue: run out of grass o Solution: Something has to be put back in OR selfish interests sequestered • The Tragedy of commons occurs when it is in everyone's interest to cooperate but there is individual incentive to act selfishly o Ex: Over fishing in the oceans • Solution: world trade organization attempts to make guidelines • General Solution: New Rules to reduce (managing people's behaviors) o Ex: Groundwater crisis in California • Crops = Money, but there is a water shortage so famers take water from the ground, the issue: the water is running out and there won't be enough for everyone • Solution: Rules OR Desalination (too expensive) o It is costly when we don't manage resources properly. Solutions are expensive • How do increase the likelihood of collective action? o Institutions: Rules, procedures, organizations, government • Value in Institutions is that they stand apart from the individual and those that populate those institutions. • The Goal of an institution is to foster cooperation unfortunately cost is inevitable. Think About Congress: What does it take to get them to agree? The Costs: *These are tradeoffs: If you lower transaction costs, you are likely to increase conformity costs and vice versa. Institutions try to manage these costs. 1. Transaction Cost: Time/effort to make decision 2. Conformity cost: Costs associated with decision itself if it means doing something we'd rather not do. Consider 2 different political systems: Shows the trade off 1. All decisions are made by all of the citizens collectively and require unanimous votes a. The Transaction costs are high (have to go back and forth a lot) b. The Conformity Costs are low: Everyone agreed! 2. Dictatorship a. Transaction costs are low (no back and forth!) b. Conformity costs may be high: No one else had any say, there might be a lot of disagreement American Political Institutions • Voting rules: Majority and plurality rules, as well as super majority such as 2/3 o Plurality: • Reducing transaction costs • Increasing conformity costs Candidate 1 Candidate 2 Candidate 3 30% votes 30% votes 40% votes § The winner has 60% of the population that didn't vote for him. o Majority: • Increasing transaction costs --> More voting • Reducing conformity costs --> more people agree Candidate Candidate Candidate 1 2 3 15% votes 40% votes 45% votes • Hold a run-off (another election) • Delegation: Authorizing someone to make decisions o Can be done in the form of • delegating committees • Electing officers (very few organizations have a flat hierarchy) • Representatives and Senators • Those who carry out the law (ex: police/regulators/EPA etc.) o We delegate to reduce transaction costs • Conformity costs, as a risk, are likely going to increase • Agency loss: o Agents (representatives) fail to do what the principal (delegators ex: voters) want • Corruption, miscommunication, different interests • Form of conformity costs Summary: The solution to the collective action problem lies in rules and institutions, but these entail costs and risks. Reading Notes ~ Logic of American Politics Chapter 1 Politics: The Process through which individuals and groups reach agreement on a course of common or collective action - even as they disagree on the intended goals of that action. • Success at politics requires bargaining and compromise • Reconciling preferences is the fundamental problem of governance. The Importance of Institutional Design • Whether at war or simply at odds, parties to a conflict will benefit from prior agreement on rules and procedures for negotiations • A stable community endures by establishing rules and procedures for promoting successful collective action. Constitutions and Governments • Rules and procedures serve to guide an organizations members in making essential political decisions • Constitution of a nation establishes its governing institutions and the set of rules and procedures that these institutions must follow to reach and enforce collective agreements • Government: consists of these institutions and the legally prescribed process for making and enforcing collective agreements Authority V. Power • Government institutions consists of office • Authority: acknowledged right to make a particular decision • Power: officeholder's actual influence with other office holders and over the governments actions Institutional Durability • Institutions tend to be stable and resist change o With authority assigned to the office, not the individual, established institutions persists beyond the tenure of the individuals who occupy them • Institutions contribute a fundamental continuity and orderliness to collective action o People who are affected by them make plans on the expectation that the current arrangements will remain. • Reform helps an institution perform more efficiently • Reforms enable institutions to accomplish new collective goals The Political System's Logic • Quality of democracy in modern America reflects the quality of its governing institutions • Institutions have core values • Balanced against the idea of popular rule is the belief that government must protect individual liberties • Logic based on principles about how members of a community should engage one another politically to identify and pursue their common goals. Collective Action Problems • Successful Collective action challenges participants to figure out what to do and how to do it • Collective action: efforts of a group to reach and implement agreements • Issue: Prisoner's Dilemma • Coordination: the simplest barrier to over come; Members of the group must decide individually o what they want o what they are prepared to contribute to the collective enterprise o how to coordinate their efforts with those of others. • Prisoner's Dilemma arises when individuals decide that even though they support a collective undertaking, they are personally better off pursing an activity that rewards them individually despite undermining the collective effort Coordination • Coordination problems increase with the size of a group • Larger groups do better off designating and following a leader • House of representatives: Speaker of the House & Rules committee • This explains why societies collective decisions are generally delegated to a small group of professionals (politicians) • Focal point: some prominent cue that helps individuals recognize the preferences of others with whom they want to cooperate • Coordination problems arise from uncertainty and insufficient information The Prisoner's Dilemma • Arises when individuals, who ultimately would benefit from cooperating with each other, also have a powerful and irresistible incentive to break the agreement and exploit the other side • Exchanges occur because each side recognizes that it will be better off with a collective outcome rather than trying to act alone • To get something both sides must give up something • Unless participants can trust each other to abide by their commitments, they will not achieve a mutually profitable exchange • Solution? o Making reneging and defection very expensive o Create institutions that help parties discover opportunities to profit through cooperation and guarantee that agreements are honored. • Some issues don't offer mutual gains through cooperation Free Rider Problem • Form of the prisoner's dilemma • With each individual's contribution to the success of the collective activity being quite small, each member will be tempted to free rid (defect from the agreement by withholding a contribution while enjoying the benefits of the collective effort) • Arises when citizens recognize that their small contribution to the collective enterprise will not affect its success or failure The tragedy of the commons • Another form of the prisoner's dilemma • Free riding in that the provision of a public good is divorced from its consumption • Free riding emphasizes efforts of individuals to avoid contributing to the creation or preservation of a public good • Tragedy of the commons concentrates on individuals' costless consumption of public goods that result in ruination • Avoid the tragedy of the commons lies in proper institutional design • Links the individuals personal interest to provision of the collective good • Regulation (setting up rules) • Conserving the commons often involves privatizing it The Cost of Collective Action • Offers a group benefits its members cant achieve on their own • Key to success lies in designing a system that achieves the benefits of a collective effort while minimizing its cost. • Important costs for designing and evaluating institutions o Transaction costs o Conformity costs Transaction Costs • The time, effort, and resources required to make collective decisions • Can pose a barrier to political agreement • Rise as the number of participants whose preferences must be taken into account increases • In the absence of institutions these costs could overwhelm the ability to come to a decision. • Occasionally high transaction costs are intentionally put in place to make some collective activities more difficult Conformity Costs • Participants do something they prefer not to • Entails a trade-off • Governmental reform occurs within a narrow range of trade-offs between transaction and conformity costs • Rules, procedures and resources are frequently changed to reduce transaction costs Designing Institutions for Collective Action: the Framers' Tool Kit. Design Defining Feature Example Principle Command Authority to dictate others' actions President's commander in chief authority Veto Authority to block a proposal or stop an President's veto; senate confirmation of action the president's appointments; judicial review Agenda Authority to place proposals before Congress presenting enrolled bill to Control others for their decision, as well as president; congressional committees' preventing proposals from being recommendations to the full chamber considered Voting Rules prescribing who votes and the Supreme court decisions; electoral rules minimum number of votes required to college; selection of the Speaker of the accept a proposal or elect a candidate House Delegation Authority to assign an agent Representation, bureaucracy responsibility to act in your behalf Command: • Authority of one actor to dictate the actions of another • Gives its holder comprehensive control of those within the scope of its authority • Cuts through both coordination and prisoner's dilemma problems by conferring the authority to impose a solution regardless of the preference of others Veto: • Right to say no • Unilateral • Impose their views • It is negative/blocking action that preserves the status quo Agenda Control • Right of an actor to set choices for others • Those who exercise agenda control gain both positive and negative influence over collective decisions • Agenda setter can introduce a choice to the collectivity • Others are limited to deciding between the proposal or status quo • Limits the choices available Voting Rules • Majority rule: simple majority - one half, plus one • Popular majorities (set amount) are less likely to engage in tyranny • Plurality rule = the candidate receiving the most votes, reaches a majority • Supermajorities; 2/3 required Delegation • Authorize someone to make and implement decisions for them • America delegates representatives • Principals: those who possess decision-making authority, , may delegate their authority to agents • Agents: exercise it on behalf of the principals. • It addresses common collective action problems • Enforcement authority (IRS, EEOC, etc.) • Introduces problems such as agency loss; failure to communicate goals clearly • Lack of direct control Representative Government • Modern Democracies blend delegation with Majority rule • Citizens limit their decisions to the selection of government officials who acting as their agents, deliberate and commit the citizens to collective enterprises. • Direct democracy: citizens participate directly in collective decision making is primarily reserved for small communities and organizations. Majority Rule versus the Republic • Republic: designed to allow some degree of popular control and to avoid gtyranny • Parliamentary governments: include a popularly elected legislature whose actions are not subject to the same sever checks by executive and judicial vetoes • Cabinet: team of executives • Separation of powers; distribution of roles within the united states government • Coalition: combination of unlike-minded interests who nonetheless agree for their own distinct reasons to a common course of actions • Politicians build coalitions The Work of Government • Private goods: things people buy and consume themselves in marketplace that supplies these goods according to the demand for them • Public goods: everyone participates in supplying • Citizens look to the government to provide public goods • Collective goods: mixed goods Reading Notes ~ Oslon 1 – 1 From The Logic of Collective Action • Take for granted: Group Theory: Groups of individuals with common interests usually attempt to further those common interests o Important in Marxian theories of class action o Based on the assumption that individuals in groups act out of self interests o Accepted premise of rational, self-interested behavior o Unfortunately, not true… rational, self-interested individuals will not act to achieve their common or group interests • A Theory of Groups and Organizations The Purpose of Organization o The furtherance of the interests of their members (Most often common interests) o There are still individual interests different from those of the others in the group Public Goods and large Groups o Individual interests and common interests combined in an organization suggests an analogy to a competitive market. o It takes government assistance to balance competition in the market, similarly: • it is not rational for a producer to restrict his output in order for the market price to be higher for the product of his industry • it is not rational for the producer to sacrifice his time and money to support a lobbying organization to obtain government assistance for the industry. • The producer shouldn't assume the costs himself. • A lobbying organization/labor union… gets no assistance from the rational, self interested individual. o The larger the organization, the loss of one dues payer will not noticeably increase the burden for any other dues payer, so a rational person would not believe that if he were to withdraw from an organization he would drive others to do so. o In organizations: an emotional/ideological element is involved • Nation-State: Patriotism/nationalism § However: Philanthropy isn't a significant source of revenue o An organization provides inseparable generalized benefits. o A state is an organization that provides public goods for its members o Just as a state cannot support itself by voluntary contributions/selling its basic services - nor can other large organizations support themselves without some sanction/attraction distinct from the good itself. o Member o fa large organization's efforts will not have a noticeable effect on the situation of his organization, and he can enjoy any improvements brought about by others whether or not he worked in support.


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