PS 507 Social Choice Theory: Liberalism Against Populism?

Spring 2017

Officially titled "Seminar in Positive Political Theory," this course will serve two purposes.  First, it will provide a basic introduction to axiomatic social choice theory and voting theory.  Second, it will explore the implications of the theory for the nature of democracy and democratic politics, especially as this relationship has been viewed by the proponents and critics of William Riker's influential book Liberalism Against Populism.

This website will be updated to reflect current plans with respect to coverage and schedule, assignments, and any relevant links to materials associated with the course.

Course Outline and Approximate Schedule

0. Introductory Session

Jan. 18

Read ahead of time:
Kenneth O. May, "A Set of Independent Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Simple Majority Decision." Econometrica, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Oct., 1952), pp. 680-684. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

Supplementary notes: Calvert, "The Condorcet Paradox and the Impossibility of Nice Social Choice" (3 pages), on "little impossibility theorems.'' Click here to obtain online.

  • Suggested exercise: Can you formulate a version of Theorem 1 after weakening the definition of "respecting majority preferences'' to require only that, if more individuals strictly prefer x to y than prefer y to x, society does not strictly prefer y to x? The initial problem is, can we get aways with declaring social indifference between x and y whenever a contradiction arises between transitivity and respecting majority preference?

 

1.  The General Possibility Theorem

Jan. 25

Details TBA.  Possible readings include

  • Julian H. Blau, "A Direct Proof of Arrow's Theorem." Econometrica, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan., 1972), pp. 61-67.   Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
    • Note Sen’s general characterization of such proofs as follows: field-expansion lemma (generalizing decisiveness of a group) => group-contraction lemma => dictator (by finiteness of N, since unanimity => N is decisive). See p. 4 of Amartya Sen, "Rationality and Social Choice." American Economic Review, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 1-24.   Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • John Geanakoplos, "Three Brief Proofs of Arrrow's Impossibility Theorem." Economic Theory, Vol. 26 (2005), pp. 211-215.   Click here to obtain online.
  • Robert WIlson, "On the Theory of Aggregation." Journal of Economic Theory Vol. 10, No. 1 (1975), pp. 89-99.   Click here to obtain online.

 

2.  Strategic Voting, Liberalism, and Judgment Aggregation

Feb. 1 & 8

Supplementary notes: Calvert, notes on "Comparing Impossibility Theorems" (6 pages). Click here to obtain online.

For Feb. 1:

  • Amartya Sen, “The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal.” Journal of Political Economy Vol. 78, No. 1 (Jan.-Feb., 1970), pp. 152-157.   Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
    • Reformulate Sen's conditions U, P, and L explicitly in terms of a social decision function, rather than the social welfare function.
  • Alan Gibbard, "Manipulation of voting schemes", Econometrica, Vol. 41 (1973), pp. 587-601.  Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

For Feb. 8:

  • Christian List and Philip Pettit, "Aggregating Sets of Judgments: An Impossibility Result." Economics and Philosophy, Vol. 18 (2002), pp. 89-110.   Click here to obtain from ProQuest.
    • Errata: On page 98, line 2, "the following table" refers to Table 1 on the previous page. On page 109, line 6 from bottom of main text, "with the following properties:" refers to Table 3 at the top of the page.
    • Exercise: What are the column totals in Table 3?
  • Christian List, "The theory of judgment aggregation: an introductory review." Synthese Vol. 187, No. 1 (July 2012), pp. 179-207.   Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

 

3.  Instability in Multidimensional Voting Models

Feb. 15

Readings. We will work through the McKelvey proofs in detail, and will work through the setup and results of the Schofield paper.

 

4.  Deliberative Democracy

Feb. 22-Mar. 1

Readings for Feb. 22:

  • James Bohman, “Survey Article: The Coming of Age of Deliberative Democracy.” Journal of Political Philosophy vol. 6 no. 4 (1998), pp. 400-425. Click here to obtain via EBSCOhost.
  • Joshua Cohen, “Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy.” In A. Hamlin and P. Pettit, eds., The Good Polity (Blackwell, 1989). Paper to be supplied; 19 pages.
  • Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, "Moral Conflict and Political Consensus." Ethics, Vol. 101, No. 1 (Oct., 1990), pp. 64-88. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Klaus Nehring and Clemens Puppe, "Justifiable Group Choice." Journal of Economic Theory Vol. 145 (2010), pp. 583-602. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

Readings for Mar. 1:

  • David Austen-Smith and Timothy J. Feddersen, "Deliberation, Preference Uncertainty, and Voting Rules." American Political Science Review, Vol. 100, No. 2 (May, 2006), pp. 209-217. Click here to obtain via JSTOR. We won't cover details of this paper; just look it over and know what approach it takes to modeling deliberation.
  • Catherine Hafer and Dimitri Landa, "Deliberation as Self-Discovery and Institutions for Political Speech." Journal of Theoretical Politics Vol 19, Issue 3 (Jul. 2007), pp. 329-360.   Click here to obtain online.
  • John W. Patty, "Arguments-Based Collective Choice." Journal of Theoretical Politics Vol. 20, No. 4 (2008), pp. 379-414.   Click here to obtain online.

 

5.  Liberalism Against Populism

Mar. 8

Riker, Liberalism Against Populism.

 

6.  Democracy Defended

Readings for Mar. 22:

Gerry Mackie, Democracy Defended (Cambridge University Press, 2003).  Available as an e-book from Olin library. Excerpts (to be modified; total now 241 pages):

  • Chapters 1, 2 on Mackie's general theme (43 pages)
  • Chapters 5, 6 on Arrrow conditions (63 pages)
  • Chapters 11-13 SKIM on Riker's account of antebellum politics (69 pages)
  • Chapter 16 on manipulation via introduction of new dimensions (31 pages)
  • Chapters 17, 18 conclusion (35 pages)

[Also relevant: Gerry Mackie, "All Men are Liars: Is Democracy Meaningless?" In Jon Elster, ed., Deliberative Democracy (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998, pp. 69-96).]

 

Readings for Mar. 29

  • Jules Coleman and John Ferejohn, "Democracy and Social Choice." Ethics, Vol. 97, No. 1 (Oct., 1986), pp. 6-25. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Joshua Cohen, "An Epistemic Conception of Democracy." Ethics Vol. 97, No. 1 (Oct. 1986), pp. 26-38. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • John S. Dryzek and Christian List, "Social Choice Theory and Deliberative Democracy: A Reconciliation." British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan., 2003), pp. 1-28.   Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Keith Dowding, "Can Populism Be Defended? William Riker, Gerry Mackie and the Interpretation of Democracy." Government and Opposition, Vol. 41, No. 3 (2006), pp. 327–346. Click here to obtain online from Cambridge Press.

Also recommended:

  • Iain McLean, "William H. Riker and the Invention of Heresthetic(s)." British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jul., 2002), pp. 535-558. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Peter Stone, "Book Review: Gerry Mackie, Democracy Defended." Public Choice, Vol. 125 (2005), pp. 471-475. Click here to obtain online.

Also very highly recommended: this little memoir by Don Saari. As any fourth-grader can see, the Borda Count is the superior voting method.

 

7.  Covering and Agendas

Readings for Apr. 5

  • Kenneth A. Shepsle and Barry R. Weingast, "Uncovered sets and sophisticated voting outcomes with implications for agenda institutions."  American Journal of Political Science Vol. 28, No. 1 (Feb. 1984), pp 49-74. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Jeffrey S. Banks, “Sophisticated voting outcomes and agenda control." Social Choice and Welfare Vol. 1 (1985), pp. 295-306. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Elizabeth Maggie Penn, "Alternate definitions of the uncovered set and their implications." Social Choice and Welfare Vol. 27, No. 1 (Aug. 2006), pp. 83-87. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

Readings for Apr. 12

  • Richard D. McKelvey, "Covering, Dominance, and the Institution-Free Properties of Social Choice." American Journal of Political Science Vol. 30, No. 2 (May 1986), pp. 283-314. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

 

Not assigned: the original work on the uncovered set was published by Nicholas Miller in these classic analyses based on simple graph theory:

  • Nicholas R. Miller, "Graph-theoretical approaches to the theory of voting." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Nov. 1977), pp. 769-803. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Nicholas R. Miller, "A new solution set for tournaments and majority voting: Further graph-theoretic approaches to the theory of voting."  American Journal of Political Science Vol. 24, No. 1 (Feb. 1980), pp. 68-96. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.
  • Nicholas R. Miller, "The Covering Relation in Tournaments: Two Corrections."  American Journal of Political Science Vol. 27, No. 2 (May, 1980), pp. 382-385. Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

 

8.  A Theory of Legitimacy

Apr. 19

Details TBA. Reading will be one of the following:

  • John W. Patty and Elizabeth Maggie Penn, "A social choice theory of legitimacy." Social Choice and Welfare, Vol. 36 (2011), pp. 365-382.   Click here to obtain online.
  • John W. Patty and Elizabeth Maggie Penn, Social Choice and Legitimacy: The Possibilities of Impossibility (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

 

9.  Ongoing Political Coalitions

Apr. 26

Details TBA. Readings may include

  • Kathleen Bawn,"Constructing 'Us': Ideology, Coalition Politics, and False Consciousness." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr. 1999): pp. 303-34.   Click here to obtain via JSTOR.

 


This page written by Randall Calvert  2017
Email comments and questions to calvert at wustl.edu
Wednesdays 10:00-noon, Seigle 272

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Textbooks (not in bookstore -- obtain on your own)

William H. Riker, Liberalism against Populism:  A Confrontation between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice (W.H. Freeman & Co., 1982). (Republished in 1988 by Waveland Press, identical except for cover.)
 
Gerry Mackie, Democracy Defended (Cambridge University Press, 2003).  Available as an e-book from Olin library.
 
John W. Patty and Elizabeth Maggie Penn, Social Choice and Legitimacy: The Possibilities of Impossibility (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).
 

Course Requirements

When we cover technical material, we'll take turns presenting pieces of the assigned readings (such as individual theorems and their proofs). When we cover less technical material, we'll conduct ourselves as a more traditional seminar, so come prepared with questions and reactions. I may also assign problems that contribute to the reading.

By the end of the semester, each student should turn in a paper addressing a social choice theory problem you have identified (in consultation with me) formulated, and made initial attempts at solving. Your paper should include a literature review relating your problem to the existing literature. The topics for these papers should be set by the middle of the semester.