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The Logic of American Politics

The Logic of American Politics

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The Logic of American Politics

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  1. The Logic of American Politics Chapter One

  2. The Logic of American Politics • What good is politics in helping people solve their problems? • Do institutions matter? • In a democracy, when a majority agrees on a course of action, how do the institutional arrangements really affect the majority’s ability to do what it wants? • Scenario: George W. Bush and embryonic stem cell research

  3. The Logic of American Politics • Choices breed conflict • conflicting interests • conflicting values • conflicting ideas about how to allocate limited resources

  4. The Logic of American Politics • Politics is how people attempt to manage conflict. • What happens when politics fails? • anarchy • civil war

  5. The Logic of American Politics • Formal definition: • politics is 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. • Bargaining and compromise • Preferences equal “givens”

  6. The Importance of Institutional Design • Effective political institutions • Set of rules and procedures for reaching and enforcing collective agreements • Examples: • Clinton’s impeachment trial in Senate • Harrington Treatise • The Constitution • Institutional design is a product of politics • example: Department of Education

  7. Constitutions & Governments • Constitutions • Set of rules and procedures institutions follow to reach collective agreements • Government • Consists of these institutions and the legally prescribed process for making and enforcing collective agreements

  8. Constitutions & Governments • Governments may assume various forms: • monarchy • representative democracy • theocracy • dictatorship

  9. Power versus Authority • Offices • Authority • Power

  10. Institutional Durability • Institutions tend to be stable and resist change. • Reasons: • Institutions persist beyond the tenure of office holders who occupy them. • The people who are affected by them make plans on the expectation that current arrangements will remain (the status quo) • Those who seek change typically cannot agree on alternatives.

  11. The Political System’s Logic • Core values embedded in our institutions: • elections • protection of individual liberties • principles

  12. Collective Action Problems • May involve… • comparing preferences • agreeing on a course of action (alternative) that is preferable to doing nothing • implementing and enforcing the collective choice • Nuts and bolts of action PLUS sharing costs and living up to the agreement

  13. Collective Action Problems • Coordination • problem increases with size of group • solutions • Prisoner’s Dilemma • free Riding • tragedy of the commons • solutions

  14. The Costs of Collective Action • Collective action offers participants benefits they cannot achieve on their own. • cost • the key: to minimize costs • Other costs: • transaction • conformity costs • the two costs often involve a trade-off with one another

  15. Transaction and Conformity Costs • Transaction costs • the time, effort, and resources required to compare preferences and make collective decisions • increase when the number of participants rise

  16. Transaction and Conformity Costs • Conformity costs • the difference between what any one party prefers and what the collective body requires. • losers in politics: parties whose preferences receive little accommodation but who must still contribute to the collective undertaking • paying one’s taxes • serving in Iraq • The two costs are inversely related

  17. Figure 1.1

  18. Designing Institutions for Collective Action: The Framers’ Toolkit • command • veto • agenda control • voting rules • majority rule • simple majority • plurality • delegation • principles and agents • agency loss

  19. Representative Government • representative government • direct democracy • referendum • initiative • majority rule versus the republic • republic • allows some degree of popular control yet avoids tyranny • parliamentary government • cabinet • separation of powers

  20. Politicians • professionals • public servant or entrepreneur? • specializes in pulling together coalitions • sincere versus strategic behavior: • what does it mean to behave strategically?

  21. The Work of Government • private goods • market provides/individually purchased, individually consumed • public goods • government provides/cost born collectively, everyone benefits • mixed goods/collective goods more accurate name • public “bad” or externality • auto pollution • fire protection • private to a public good • smoking

  22. Mitigating Popular Passions • Framers: • reformers • designed new government that minimized conformity costs and escalated transaction costs • new government could: • solve problems • could not usurp power

  23. Mitigating Popular Passions • Majority rule is visibly present; it is also constrained by some powerful rules. • separation of powers • staggered legislative terms • an unelected judiciary • limited national authority • Most complex constitutional system in the world