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Positive Political Theory II

Strategy and Structure

David Austen-Smith and Jeffrey S. Banks

Publication Year: 2005

“A major piece of work . . . a classic. There is no other book like it.” —Norman Schofield, Washington University “The authors succeed brilliantly in tackling a large number of important questions concerning the interaction among voters and elected representatives in the political arena, using a common, rigorous language.” —Antonio Merlo, University of Pennsylvania Positive Political Theory II: Strategy and Structure is the second volume in Jeffrey Banks and David Austen-Smith’s monumental study of the links between individual preferences and collective choice. The book focuses on representative systems, including both elections and legislative decision-making processes, clearly connecting individual preferences to collective outcomes. This book is not a survey. Rather, it is the coherent, cumulative result of the authors’ brilliant efforts to indirectly connect preferences to collective choice through strategic behaviors such as agenda-selection and voting. The book will be an invaluable reference and teaching tool for economists and political scientists, and an essential companion to any scholar interested in the latest theoretical advances in positive political theory.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Michigan Studies in Political Analysis


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Undeniably the deepest debt is owed to Jeffrey Scot Banks. Although drafts of some sections of the chapters herein already existed, spin-offs from working on Positive Political Theory 1: Collective Preference [13], we did not begin this volume until September 2000. In October of that year, Jeff was admitted to the hospital, where he remained until his death two months...

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pp. xiii-xvii

As with its precursor, Positive Political Theory 1: Collective Preference, this book is concerned with understanding the connection between individuals' preferences within any society and the collective choices of that society. Motivated by the canonical rational choice theoretic model of decision-making, Positive Political Theory 1 [PPTI] explores "the possibility that individual...

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1. Preliminaries

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pp. 1-18

Positive Political Theory 1: Collective Preference concerns the problem of aggregating individual preferences directly into some sort of collective preference or choice. The current book concerns the problem of aggregating individual preferences indirectly, through individual actions, to arrive at a collective choice. These two perspectives, as we argue in...

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2. Strategy-Proof Collective Choice

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pp. 19-68

Positive Political Theory 1 is concerned with aggregating various profiles of individual preferences. However, as we emphasized in that book, there is no logical necessity for choice and preference to coincide; individuals might abstain or might choose strategically. Of course, given that individuals have preferences, we expect any such strategic behavior to be directed toward...

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3. Implementable Collective Choice

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pp. 69-111

The Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem (Theorem 2.1) says that if we ask people to tell us their preferences to arrive at some social choice, we cannot be sure that they will tell us the truth. But this result does not say that it is generally impossible to elicit the truthful revelation of preferences. Indeed, given a (possibly set-valued) collective choice rule...

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4. Binary Agendas

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pp. 113-146

In Chapter 2 we argued that incentives for strategic misrepresentation of preferences are inherent in nondictorial collective choice. A positive response to this fact is to design institutions for collective decision-making that internalize such strategic incentives and yield the desired outcomes irrespective of individual efforts at manipulation. Chapter 3 pursued this idea and studied...

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5. Spatial Voting in Committees

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pp. 147-191

More often than not, a committee is a relatively small subset of individuals from a larger group, charged with making some decision on behalf of that larger group. Canonical examples include representative legislatures and legislative committees, parliamentary ad hoc committees, judicial committees, and so on. And while Chapter 4 concerns the structure and implications...

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6. Legislative Bargaining

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pp. 193-252

Binary voting agendas are well-defined mechanisms, describing how a committee arrives at a collective choice from a given set of alternatives. And it is clear from Chapter 4, where we study the strategic implications of these mechanisms, that institutional details matter: even with a fixed preference profile, distinct collective choices can arise from small variations in the choice...

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7. Two-Candidate Elections

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pp. 253-332

Defining exactly what it is that makes a political system democratic is peculiarly difficult. A common feature of those systems typically labeled democratic, however, is the prevalence of elected officials. There are many different electoral systems in use and many more can be imagined. The institutions differ in who can vote and how often they can vote; in the number...

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8. Multicandidate Elections

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pp. 333-390

Although theoretically significant, elections with exactly two candidates are relatively unusual. In general there are at least two candidates and the possibility of multiple electoral competitors raises a variety of substantive and analytic issues, issues that are finessed or largely irrelevant when considering elections with two given candidates seeking a single office. For example, the...

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9. Legislative Elections

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pp. 391-417

More-or-less independent theories of committee choice, coalition building or electoral behavior surely contribute to our understanding of how the details of political institutions affect policy choice, yet most policy outcomes are the result of a legislative coalition or committee decision procedure (such as those studied in earlier chapters) involving elected representatives from several...

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10. Summary and Conclusions

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pp. 419-427

A central task for political science is to understand how the preferences of individuals comprising a society map into the collective choices of that society. The development of such an understanding constitutes the organizing principle for this volume and its precursor, Positive Political Theory I: Collective Preference....


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pp. 429-444


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pp. 445-454

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022472
E-ISBN-10: 0472022474
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472068944
Print-ISBN-10: 0472068946

Page Count: 472
Illustrations: numerous equations and calculations
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Michigan Studies in Political Analysis
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 593250034
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Positive Political Theory II

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Subject Headings

  • Rational choice theory.
  • Social choice.
  • Political science -- Methodology.
  • Elections.
  • Voting.
  • Political science -- Decision making.
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