Game Theory in Politics (POL 347/ ECO 347)

Game Theory in Politics (POL 347/ ECO 347)


Summary. Game theory and its applications to the study of politics. Applications include: bargaining, lobbying, strategic information transmission, media bias, political agency, reputation, pandering, voting. Prerequisite: MAT 103.


Course Requirements & Grades.  Grades are based on the following weighting scheme: Assignments (36%), Midterm  (20%), Final  (30%) and Presentations/Discussion (14%). Attendance is required, and participation encouraged. Midterm and Final are take-home exams, closed-book. Collaboration on the examinations is prohibited. You are encouraged to work together on assignments, but answers must be written independently.  Late assignments will not be accepted, unless for a valid medical reason. The date that an assignment is due will be announced in lecture when the assignment is distributed. 


Tentative Schedule

  • Week 1. Static Games of Complete Information (SGCI): Key Ideas. Readings: OSB C2, C4.
  • Week 2. More about SGCI and Application: Electoral Competition. Readings: OSB C2, C4.

Problem Set 1 due. 

  • Week 3. Dynamic Games of Complete Information (DGCI): Key Ideas. Readings: OSB C5 + DGCI Applications: Bargaining.
  • Week 4. DGCI Applications: Bargaining.

Problem Set 2 due. 

  • Week 5. DGCI Applications: Vote Buying.

Optional Readings: "Buying supermajorities.", by Tim Groseclose and James M. Snyder Jr.  American Political Science Review (1996): 303-315. 

Problem Set 3 due. 

  • Week 6. Practice + Midterm.

Midterm Examination.

Spring Recess.

  • Week 7. Games of Incomplete Information (SCII): Key Ideas and Examples.  

Readings: OSB C9-10.

  • Week 8. Dynamic Games of Incomplete Information: Signaling + Application: Political Agency & Accountability. 

Reading: C3 & C4 of Timothy Besley's "Principled Agents? The Political Economy of Good Governance".

Problem Set 4 due.

  • Week 9. Political Agency & Accountability + Reputation.  

Reading:  "Political Correctness", by Stephen Morris,  Journal of Political Economy 109.2 (2001): 231-265 (Focus on Section II)

Problem Set 5 due.

  • Week 10. Reputation + Informational Cascades.

Reading: "A theory of fads, fashion, custom, and cultural change as informational cascades.", by Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer, and Ivo Welch.  Journal of Political Economy 100.5 (1992): 992-1026.

  • Week 11. Strategic Information Transmission (Cheap Talk).

Reading: Osborne Cx

Problem Set 6 due.

  • Week 12. Student Presentations:  
    • Media Bias. Readings: "Media Bias and Reputation", by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 114, No. 2 (April 2006), pp. 280-316.  
    • "Leadership and pandering: A theory of executive policymaking", by Brandice Canes-Wrone, Michael C. Herron, and Kenneth W. Shotts, American Journal of Political Science (2001): 532-550. (Key Result is Pandering eq. in Proposition 2).
    • "Advocates", by Mathias Dewatripont and Jean Tirole, Journal of Political Economy 107.1 (1999): 1-39. (Focus on Section III).
    • Fearon, James D. "Signaling foreign policy interests: Tying hands versus sinking costs." Journal of conflict resolution41.1 (1997): 68-90. 
    • Visser, Bauke, and Otto H. Swank. "On committees of experts." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 122.1 (2007): 337-372.

Final Exam.