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The Menu for Choice. How do States Make Decisions?. I. Descriptive Realism and its Assumptions. RISK Lord Palmerston: “His Majesty’s Government has no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”

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The Menu for Choice


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    1. The Menu for Choice How do States Make Decisions?

    2. I. Descriptive Realism and its Assumptions • RISK • Lord Palmerston: “His Majesty’s Government has no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” • Winston Churchill: “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

    3. A. States are the relevant actors in world politics Evidence: Most wars fought by one or more states Counter-evidence: Trade is not state-to-state (but reduces interstate conflict), >50% of wars involve non-state actors, and IGO membership reduces interstate conflict

    4. B. States behave “as if” unitary, rational actors • Evidence: Even liberal states often practice “power politics” – i.e. US intervention in Latin America, British colonialism, Chinese hegemony in Vietnam, etc. • Counter-evidence: the “democratic peace”

    5. C. States actually pursue the “national interest” Evidence: Rational calculation appears to occur (Lord Palmerston quote) Counter-evidence: Leaders matter, need for foreign policy advice, voluntary losses of sovereignty (EU, Czechoslovakia)

    6. II. Prescriptive Realism • Seek a “Balance of Power” • Logic: Since it’s a dog-eat-dog world, bigger states are expected to conquer smaller ones (unless the small one gets allies) • Problem: Strong evidence suggests that imbalances of power (disparity) are less war-prone than balances of power (parity)!

    7. B. Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war) Logic: Deterrence theory holds that the stronger you are, the less likely peopleare to attack you. Problem: Power politics increases war risk: signing an outside alliance, building up arms (whether mutual or unilateral). States that prepare for war tend to fight a lot.

    8. C. “War Is the Health of the State” • Logic: War unites nations, expands the successful ones, and generates growth • War is sub-optimal • Bargaining without war: Side A and Side B are arguing over something. Expressing each side’s share as a percentage, A gets x of the disputed resources or territory and B gets 1-x. So A’s share plus B’s share = 1, or 100%. This is called Pareto Optimality (nothing is left on the table).

    9. b. Compare to War • Each side has a chance of winning and losing. One side’s chance of winning is the other side’s chance of losing. • Winner gets everything (100% of disputed resources), loser gets nothing (0%) • Both sides suffer costs (economic, social, military, etc.)

    10. The Math • Represent A’s probability of winning as p. Then B’s probability of winning is 1-p. • A’s payoff for war = p*1 + (1-p)*0 – CostsA • Simplify: p - CostsA • B’s payoff for war = (1-p)*1+p*0 – CostsB • Simplify: 1- p - CostsB • The total return on war is (p-CostsA) + (1-p-CostsB) • = p – CostsA + 1 – p – CostsB • = 1 – CostsA – Costs B • Since bargaining gives a total return of 1 and 1 > 1 – CostsA – CostsB war is inefficient. Not Pareto Optimal.

    11. D. Don’t be a Sucker 1. Logic • Prisoners’ Dilemma: Used to model “Security Dilemmas” -- Efforts to increase own security make others less secure (arms races, etc.) • Both players end up worse, even though each plays rationally!

    12. 2. Problems Repeated play: Axelrod’s “tournament” establishes that “always defect” is suboptimal! Superior: TFT Not all games are PD. Some have cooperative outcomes. EARTH simulation: Establishes that best alliance strategy is: never initiate war, never ally with initiator, always ally with target. “Collective security states” do best!

    13. 3. Summary • No matter what the outcome is to a war, the two sides could always have found some agreement that BOTH would have preferred to war – IF both of them agreed on how the war was likely to turn out. • Example: Both sides in a war would ALWAYS be better off by simply adopting the war’s outcome (other than the actual fighting part) as a pre-war bargain. • So why do people fight?

    14. III. Arrow’s Theorem against the National Interest • Focus: How to aggregate individual interests into social or national interest • Setting and question • Three or more citizens • Three or more outcomes or objectives they must rank: Example: economic growth, human rights, and military security. • Is there a reasonable way for society as a whole to rank the outcomes? Could be anything – voting, polling, mind-reading, etc. Is there any system at all that would be reasonable?

    15. C. Notation • Choices or outcomes are indicated by capital letters: A, B, C, etc. • Preferences indicated by use of letters p, i, or r: • Strong preference: If someone prefers one option to another we write: A p B • Indifference: If someone thinks A and B are about equal, we write A i B • Weak preference: If A p B or A i B then A r B. So A r B means “A is at least as good as B”

    16. 2. A minimal definition of rationality • Preferences are connected: Given any pair of options, someone can relate them with p, i, or r. • Preferences are transitive: If A r B and B r C then A r C.

    17. D. Characteristics of a desirable aggregation technique • Universality: Our technique should apply to any group of rational people, regardless of their specific preferences about A, B, or C.

    18. 2. Non-Dictatorship • If Bob says: A p B • But everyone else says B p A • then… • We should not conclude that for society, A p B

    19. 3. Unanimity • If everyone agrees that A p B • then… • We should conclude that for society, A p B

    20. 4. Collective Rationality • If individuals are rational, our technique should create social preferences that are rational • Remember what this means: connected and transitive preferences

    21. 5. Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives • Suppose I have the options A, B, and C. I can rank these however I want. One example: A p B p C • Now suppose a new option is available: D. • I must not change the order of A, B, and C relative to each other. • Starting with above example: • D p A p B p C  OK • A p D p B p C  OK • A p B p D p C  OK • A p B p C p D  OK • D p B p A p C  Not OK (B and A swapped places) • Restaurant analogy: Waiter offers chicken or fish. I like chicken better. Waiter comes back and explains there is also beef. I now decide I want the fish. (Not OK)

    22. D. Characteristics of a desirable aggregation technique (revisited) • Universality: Applies to people with different values or beliefs • Non-Dictatorship: No one person’s preference outweighs everyone else together • Unanimity: If everyone prefers one option to another, then so should society as a whole • Collective Rationality: Should produce a transitive ranking of options • Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives: New options don’t change the relative ranks of earlier options

    23. E. Conclusion and Implications • Arrow proved these conditions cannot all be true! • Implications • There are times when there is no single “national interest,” “general will” or “will of the people” • Rational individuals may not make a rational collectivity • Preference cycles and the power of agenda-setting • Voter 1: A p B p C • Voter 2: B p C p A • Voter 3: C p A p B • SOCIETY: • A p B • B p C • C p A!