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Chapter 1 Notes

by: Tamara Soleymani

Chapter 1 Notes GVPT 170

Tamara Soleymani


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About this Document

These notes cover Chapter 1 of the textbook as gone over in weeks 1-2 of the course
Intro to American Government
Professor Stella Rousse
Class Notes
GVPT, American Government, government notes, Government
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Tamara Soleymani on Thursday October 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to GVPT 170 at University of Maryland - College Park taught by Professor Stella Rousse in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 57 views. For similar materials see Intro to American Government in Government & Politics at University of Maryland - College Park.


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Date Created: 10/13/16
Ch. 1­Logic of American Politics Two key questions: 1. What good is politics in helping people solve their problems? 2. Do institutions matter, and if yes, how? Politics is where we reconcile preferences and reach agreements (even if disagree on intended  goal of action)  Reconciling preferences represents the fundamental problem of governance.  What can we do? o Unstructured negotiations rarely lead to acceptable results for all parties  Requires too much time and effort  Fear of reneging may foster suspicion and lead even so far as civil war  Complicated by more people and divisiveness o Create structured negotiations through institutions  Creation of institutions is fundamentally a product of politics Collective Action Problems  Coordination Problems o members must decide individually what they want and what they will contribute  and how to coordinate with others o increases with size of group o Emerges from uncertainty and insufficient info o Group may agree on course of action, but need organization to achieve it o Solutions:   simple, self­enforcing rules  focal point to target energies toward a common purpose  Prisoner’s Dilemma o Arises when individual decides it's better to take individual reward and undermine the collective effort o Only when each party is confident that the other will live up to an agreement, can  they successfully break out of the dilemma and work to their mutual advantage o Unless each side can trust the other to abide by its commitments, they will not  achieve a mutually profitable exchange. o when sides would benefit from cooperating have a powerful and irresistible  incentive to exploit the other side and break agreement o Solutions:   make defection expensive  Create institutions that guarantee agreements are honored  Free Riding o form of the prisoner’s dilemma that afflicts large groups is the free­rider problem o don’t contribute to group, but still enjoy benefits of the collective effort o Why does anyone contribute to a collective enterprise?  Intrinsic reward, even if contribution is minor  But most still free ride o Solutions:  Private inducements  Tragedy of the Commons o Resembles free­riding in that the provision of a public good is divorced from its  consumption  o Free­riding emphasizes the individual avoiding contributing, while t of c is where  individuals’ costless consumption of public goods leads to its ruination o Solutions:  Regulation (e.g. limit access, enforcement)  Privatization  Costs of Collective Action  Collective action offers participants benefits they can’t achieve on their own  The key: system must achieve benefits of collective action while minimizing its costs  Two kinds of costs that are especially relevant for designing and evaluating  institutions are: transaction costs and conformity costs o Transaction costs: The time, effort, and resources required to compare preferences and make collective decisions o Conformity costs: the extent to which a collective decision obligates participants  to do something they prefer not to do  Difference between what party prefers and what collective requires  Losers­ parties whose preferences receive little accommodation   These costs tend to be inversely related  The spectrum­dictatorship to democracy Designing Institutions to Achieve Collective Action  Best solution for costs associated w/ collective action:  o Depends on needs  Worried about too much gov't control:   make high transaction costs and require consensus collective  decisions  Need quick response?  Minimize transaction costs  Delegation occurs when politicians authorize people to make decisions on behalf o Favored solution to controlling transaction costs  Principals – those w/ decision­making authority, may delegate their authority to agents,  who then exercise it on behalf of the principals (e.g. EPA, IRS, FCC)  Problems w/ delegation: o Interests may not be served completely o Agency loss­ discrepancy between what principals want and what agents actually  do  Can be accidental or as result of different beliefs  How can a principal determine if an agent is faithful? o Takes time and effort o Whistle­blowers, monitors/inspectors  Fundamental Questions:  o How much authority can citizens safely surrender in achieving their collective  goals? o When does delegation become abdication and invite tyranny? o Madison: In framing a government, the great difficulty lies in this: you must  first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place  oblige it to control itself. Delegation example: representative gov’t  o Representative gov't­ blends delegation w/ majority rule o Elected politicians­ professionals who specialize in collective decision making  Politicians behave strategically when they subordinate their preferences or what is best  for constituents so they can be successful Designing Institutions: U.S. Constitution  Founders understood that the nation’s previous failures (Articles of Confederation)  stemmed from politics and political institutions  To solve the nation’s pervasive collective action problems, the Framers designed a new government that balanced transaction and conformity costs  BUT Madison was worried about tyranny by the majority. o While majority rule is visibly present in the framework, it is also constrained  by some powerful rules   Examples of these rules


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