Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session


This is an applied theory course covering topics in the political economy of democratic countries. This course examines political institutions from a rational choice perspective. The now burgeoning rational choice literature on legislatures, bureaucracies, courts, and elections constitutes the chief focus. Some focus will be placed on institutions from a comparative and/or international perspective.


The class grade will be calculated as follows:

Problem sets 50%
Two topic reviews 50%


Problem sets are mostly taken from Buy at MIT Press Buy at Amazon Persson, Torsten, and Guido Tabellini. Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780262661317, with the due dates indicated in the calendar below. The topic reviews consist of the following: selecting three articles on a particular topic in political economy (which could be any non-starred paper in the reading list, or any group of papers outside the reading list), explaining the main contributions of each article, and assessing what is learned about the topic from the articles and what questions remain unresolved. Each review should be no longer than 6 pages.


1 General framework  
2 Applications: public goods and size of government  
3 Applications: taxation and income redistribution  
4 Applications: macroeconomic policy  
5-7 Multiparty competition and comparative electoral systems Problem set 1 due
8 Learning by voters  
9 Agency models  
10-11 Models of political parties  
12 Possibility of a point-valued solution  
13 Set-valued solution concepts Problem set 2 due
14 Supermajority rules

Problem set 3 due

First topic review due

15 Vote-buying, vote-trading in legislatures  
16 Probabilistic voting models  
17-19 Interest groups and lobbying Problem set 4 due
20 Bargaining in legislatures  
21 Coalitions, policies, and government stability  
22 Informational vs. distributive theories of legislature

Problem set 5 due

Second topic review due