Fall 2019

Logic of Collective Choice

, 3 pts, UN3220


Much of politics is about combining individual preferences or actions into collective choices. We will make use of two theoretical approaches. Our primary approach will be social choice theory, which studies how we aggregate what individuals want into what the collective “wants.” The second approach, game theory, covers how we aggregate what individuals want into what the group gets, given that social, economic, and political outcomes usually depend on the interaction of individual choices. The aggregation of preferences or choices is usually governed by some set of institutional rules, formal or informal. Our main themes include the rationality of individual and group preferences, the underpinnings and implications of using majority rule, tradeoffs between aggregation methods, the fairness of group choice, the effects of institutional constraints on choice (e.g., agenda control), and the implications for democratic choice. Most of the course material is highly abstract, but these abstract issues turn up in many real-world problems, from bargaining between the branches of government to campus elections to judicial decisions on multi-member courts to the allocation of relief funds among victims of natural disasters to the scoring of Olympic events. The collective choice problem is one faced by society as a whole and by the smallest group alike.

Section Number
Call Number
Day, Time & Location
MW 10:10AM-11:25AM To be announced
Jeffrey R Lax