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Course materials 2015/16

Module Tutors:

Wyn Grant, PAIS

In 2015/2016, the module will be taught in term 2, Tue 14:00- 16:00 in LIB1. Seminar groups will be taken by Wyn Grant and Federico Trombetta. The seminar groups are held at the following times:

Monday 12-1 in SO.28

Monday 1-2 in SO.28

Tuesday 1-2 in SO.10

Wednesday 11-12 in H0.58

Please sign up to a seminar group using Tabula

Please note seminar groups start in Week 2. Please scroll down the page to find the seminar questions that structure discussion.

Module Description

This module is concerned with governance at both a national and global level, and considers this topic from the perspective of both economics and politics as academic disciplines. The focus is on the extent to which these perspectives complement or conflict with each other. In doing so, we exposit and critically evaluate the public choice approach to collective decision-making. Public choice views political decision-making as being the outcome of individual goal-orientated agents interacting in an environment subject to electoral and constitutional rules, and thus, for some, represents the “colonization” of part of the traditional territory of political studies by microeconomics.

We will study four specific areas where these perspectives overlap. The first part of the module approach to the behaviour of voters and political parties. A major focus will be on public choice theories of electoral competition between parties, notably the Downsian theory of competition. We then discuss critiques of the public choice perspective.

The second is in the provision of public goods, a central topic in both economics and political studies. Here, we compare and contrast the state-led and "voluntary collective" approaches to solving the problem of public good provision (sometimes called the free-rider problem). The latter, voluntary collective approach is increasingly high-profile, and is epitomised by the work of Elinor Ostrom, one of the 2010 Nobel prize-winners in economics. The voluntary collective approach is also relevant to the important case of global public goods such as greenhouse gas emission reductions. The problems of supply and financing of GPGs is particularly challenging, as they involve cooperation between many different nation-states.

The third part follows naturally from the second. When the state provides public goods, broadly interpreted, special interest groups have an incentive to lobby the decision-makers within the state to bias the provision of these goods in their direction. Our starting point here is with the classic work of Olson, in The Logic of Collective Action, who argues that business groups have an advantage here. Within economics, a distinction is drawn between informational lobbying, where interest groups have valuable information that they can share with the legislator, and resource lobbying, where interest groups just use financial contributions to bias the outcome in their favour.

The fourth part of the module looks at the institutionalist school(s) both in political studies and economics. These are concerned with explaining how and why institutions change over time. Within political science, historical institutionalism has been a dominant approach but discursive institutionalism is assuming a greater importance. Within economics, rational choice institutionalism dominiates, but even this relatively narrow approach can provide, some cases, convincing explainations of instiutional change e.g. the extension of voting rights in 19th century Europe.

Learning objectives:

The objective is to enable students to develop a broad understanding of the impacts of the differing perspectives of economics and politics as academic disciplines on national and global governance, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each methodological approach, and when they can be complementary.

Learning methods:

Attending lectures; reading suggested material; preparing responses to seminar questions, participating in seminar discussions.

We may post additional readings on the PPE web-site.


Module Topics:

Week 1



PPE Course Introduction: Methodology



Wyn Grant, Ben Lockwood



Week 2



Voters and Elections



Wyn Grant



Week 3



Voters and Elections



Ben Lockwood


Week 4



Public Goods



Wyn Grant

Week 5



Public Goods



Ben Lockwood



Week 6



Reading Week






Week 7



Interest Groups



Wyn Grant



Week 8



Interest Groups



Ben Lockwood



Week 9






Wyn Grant



Week 10






Ben Lockwood





Module Organization:

The course will consist of two hours of lectures a week, and one one-hour class per week. Classes will based on readings and questions set by the lecturers.


Alas, there is no single textbook which adequately covers this course. However, A Hindmoor and B Taylor Rational Choice, 2nd edition is very useful. This replaces the first edition single authored by Hindmoor. Consequently, readings are itemized below by weekly topic. Where possible, readings are uploaded to the module website. Still others may be suggested and/or up-loaded web-site when we reach each topic. Items that are not uploaded are available from the library, either electronically or in hard copy. We expect you to read, as a minimum, 2 of the listed readings each week.


Course assessment will be based on a Exam in May/June 2016, weighted 85%, and an assessed essay, weighted 15%, due in in week 10 of term.

Assessed essay questions

1. Is there significant methodological common ground between economics and politics?
2. Is public choice helpful in explaining how political parties compete for voters?
3. How might one want to build on Ostrom’s approach to suggest ways in which progress could be made on the mitigation of climate change?
4. Does the economics and political science literature discussed in the module help us to make a judgment on whether interest groups should be encouraged or discouraged?
5. How can we account for change in political institutions over time?

Weekly Seminar Schedule:


Week 1. Introduction to the PPE Module: Methodology

  • Discussion of organisation, themes and structure of the module
  • The methodology of economics and politics
  • How do the disciplines of politics and economics approach public choice/political economy?

Ben Lockwood's lecture

Wyn Grant's lecture


Core Reading

J Moses and T Knutsen, Ways of Knowing Palgrave-Macmillan 2007, esp. Ch. 1, 2 8 (Chapter 1 is available here)

Further Reading

 K.Arrow, "Methodological individualism and social knowledge" The American Economic Review, 1994, 84, 1-9

M. Blaug, The Methodology of Economics, Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. , 1992, Chapters 1 and 15

D Coen, W Grant, G Wilson (eds) Oxford Handbook of Business and Government, introduction

ESRC Benchmarking Review of Politics and International Relations in the UK: ESRC

 M.Friedman, ";The Methodology of Positive Economics";, Essays in Positive Economics, 1953  

Marion Fourcade, Economists and Societies: Discipline and ProfessionPrinceton University Press, 2009. There is a summary of the book here: Times Higher

W Grant, The Development of a Discipline: the History of the Political Studies Association, Wiley-Blackwell (2010)

W Grant, ‘An Analytical Framework for a Political Economy of Football’, British Politics (2007) 2 (1), 69-90

 G.Hodgson, ";Behind methodological individualism";, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 1986, 10, 211-224

N Phillips (ed), Globalizing International Political Economy, especially Chs. 1-4, Palgrave-Macmillan 2005.

Vivien Schmidt's article on discursive and other institutionalisms: Schmidt

R Sil and P J Katzenstein, Beyond Paradigms: Analytic Eclecticism in the Study of World Politics, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010.

G Stoker, 'Blockages on the Road to Relevance: Why has Political Science failed to deliver?'', European Political Science, 9 (1) (2010), S72-S84

R.Thaler and C.Sunstein, Nudge, Caravan Books, 2008, Chapters 1-5



 Week 2: Voters and Elections – Wyn Grant

  •  An assessment of Hay’s critique of public choice
  • The Downs model of the median voter


Core Reading

 C Hay, Why We Hate Politics, esp. pp. 95-122.

Further Reading

C Hay, M Lister and D Marsh (eds) The State: Theories and Issues, chapter by A Hindmoor on ‘Public Choice’

A Hindmoor, Rational Choice, chapter on ‘Anthony Downs and the Spatial Theory of Party Competition’

 The British Journal of Politics an International Relations, 7 (3) (2005) A. Hindmoor, ‘Reading Downs: New Labour and An Economic Theory of Democracy’, 402-17

 Journal of Elections, Public Opinions and Parties, 18(4) (2008) D. Sanders et al., ‘The Endogeneity of Preferences in Spatial Models: Evidence from the 2005 British Election Study’, 413-431

The 2015 election seen in Downsian terms: Who is closest to the centre ground?

Wyn Grant takes a look at Labour's 2015 election prospects in Downsian terms: Labour strategy


Week 3: Voters and Elections – Ben Lockwood

  • The “paradox of voting”
  • The Downsian model of electoral competition
  • The Citizen-Candidate model of electoral competition
  • Evidence from close elections


Core Reading

K.Shepsle and M.Bonchek, Analysing Politics, Norton and Company, chapters 2,4,5

Further Reading

"Rational Choice and Turnout", John H. Aldrich, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Feb., 1993), pp. 246-278

"Voter turnout at the British General Election of 1992: Rational choice, social standing or political efficacy?" C Pattie and R Johnston, European Journal of Political Research 33, 263–283, 1998

"Explaining voter turnout: A review of aggregate-level research", Benny Geys, Electoral Studies 25 (2006) 637-663

Smets, K., & Van Ham, C. (2013). The embarrassment of riches? A meta-analysis of individual-level research on voter turnout. Electoral Studies, 32(2), 344-359.

Grofman, B. (2004), "Downs and two-party convergence" Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci., 7, 25-46.

Besley, T., & Coate, S. (1997). An economic model of representative democracy. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 85-114.

Osborne, M. J., & Slivinski, A. (1996). A model of political competition with citizen-candidates. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 65-96.

"Do Voters Affect or Elect Policies? Evidence from the U.S. House", D.Lee, E.Moretti, and M.Butler, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 2004

"Do Political parties Matter? Evidence from US Cities", F. Ferreira and J. Gyourko, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, February 2009

Gerber, E. R., & Hopkins, D. J. (2011). When mayors matter: estimating the impact of mayoral partisanship on city policy. American Journal of Political Science, 55(2), 326-339.


Week 4. Public Goods – Wyn Grant

  •  The dilemma of public choice
  • The Tragedy of the Commons
  • The approach of Elinor Ostrom
  • The challenge of climate change?

Wyn Grant's lecture

Core Reading

Inge Kaul et al, ‘Why Do Global Public Goods Matter Today?’, Executive Summary, Providing Global Public Goods: Managing Globalization,Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. (Available as an E book in the library)

Maurizio Carbone, “Supporting or Resisting Global Public Goods? The Policy Dimension of a Contested Concept”, Global Governance, 13(1) 2007.

Elinor Ostrom, Governing The Commons, Cambridge University Press, 1990, especially Chapter 1. Scanned copy of that chapter here: Ostrom

Elinor Ostrom, 'A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action', American Political Science Review, Volume 92, 1, March 1998, 1-22.

N Bermeo et al, 'Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons', Perspectives on Politics, Volume 8, Number 2, July 2010, 569-594

Chapter by Wyn Grant from forthcoming edited book on climate change Greening at the edges

Political Studies 62(3), October 2014, A Maltais, 'Failing International Climate Politics and the Fairness of Going First', 618-33.

Elinor Ostrom, 'A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change', World Development Report paper Ostrom paper

 Further Reading

 P.B. Anand, ‘Financing the provision of Global Public Goods’, Discussion Paper 2002/110, WIDER: and also in The World Economy, Volume 27, Number 2, February 2004 , pp. 215-237

Alfred Binger, ‘Global Public Goods and potential mechanisms for financing availability’:

Richard Cornes and Todd Sandler, The Theory of Externalities, Public Goods and Club Goods 2ndedn.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996

Peter Drahos, 'The Regulation of Public Goods', in Keith Maskus and Jerome Reichman (eds.),

 International Public Goods and Transfer of Technology under a Globalized Intellectual Property Regime Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Christopher D. Gerrard, Marco Ferroni and Ashoka Mody (eds.), Global Public Policies and Programs: Implications for Financing and Evaluation. Proceedings from a World Bank Workshop, Washington DC: The World Bank.

Inge Kaul et al, Global Public Goods, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Ravi Kanbur, ‘International Public Goods’, conference paper for the CSGR 5th Annual conference on Globalisation, Growth and (In)Equality, 18th March 2002

Ravi Kanbur , Kevin M. Morrison and Todd Sandler, The Future of Development Assistance: Common Pools and International Public Goods, Overseas Development Council Essay No. 25, Johns Hopkins Press, 1999.

Keith Maskus and Jerome Reichman, ‘The Globalization of Private Knowledge Goods and Privatization of Global Public Goods’, Journal of International Economic Law, 7(2) 2004: 279-320

 Related Websites

 Global public goods Network (gpgNet): 

International Taskforce on global public goods:

UNIDO Project on International Public Goods for Economic Development:

63rd Congress of International Institute of Public Finance:


 Week 5. Public Goods – Ben Lockwood 

  • Public goods and common property resources; a review
  • Private provision of public goods
  • State provision of public goods
  • Collective provision of public goods and CPRs
  • Global public goods and the design of international treaties


 Core Reading

 Elinor Ostrom, Governing The Commons, Cambridge University Press, 1990, especially Chapters 1, 3,6.

Dietz, T., Ostrom, E., & Stern, P. C. (2003). The struggle to govern the commons, Science, 302(5652), 1907-1912.

 Further Reading

Araral, E. (2014). Ostrom, Hardin and the commons: A critical appreciation and a revisionist view. Environmental Science & Policy, 36, 11-23.

Elinor Ostrom, "A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action", The American Political Science Review, Vol. 92, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), 1-22

Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December

S. Barratt, Environment and Statecraft, Oxford University Press, Chapters 3,6,15

Barratt, J and Stavins, "Increasing Participation and Compliance in International Climate Change Agreements", International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 3, 329-376, 2003

 J.Black and De Meza, D. "Creating a Good Atmosphere: Minimum Participation for Tackling the 'Greenhouse Effect" Economica, 60, 281-93

J. Zelmer, "Linear Public Goods Experiments: A Meta-Analysis", Experimental Economics, 6:299–310 (2003)

Further information about the Kyoto Protocol available at

EU Emissions Trading Factsheet


Week 7. Interest Groups - Wyn Grant

  • What is the importance of Olson’s Logic of Collective Action?
  • Olson’s theory does not explain ‘altruistic’ groups. How can we explain an apparent increase in their numbers?


Core Reading

A Hindmoor, ‘Rational Choice’, chapter on ‘M Olson and the Logic of Collective Action’

Further Reading

M Olson, The Logic of Collective Action (2ndedition)

G Jordan and W Maloney, Democracy and Interest Groups, Ch. 2 (on Olson), Ch. 4 (on altruistic groups)

Parliamentary Affairs, Vol. 58 (2), 2005, W Grant, ‘Pressure Groups: a Politics of Collective Consumption?’, 366-379

Political Studies, Vol. 52 (3) (2004), G Jordan and D Halpin. ‘Olson Triumphant? Recruitment Strategies and the Growth of a Small Business Organisation’, 431-449

W Grant, Pressure Groups and British Politics, 43-8 (Olson)

R Baggott (et al), Speaking for Patients and Carers: Health Consumer Groups and the Policy Process

N Crowson et al. (eds) NGOs in Contemporary Britain (altruistic groups)

Week 8. Interest Groups – Ben Lockwood 

  • Special Interest Groups - An Introduction
  • Olson's Theory of Groups and Organisations
  • Money Lobbying: Theory and Evidence
  • Informational Lobbying: Theory and Evidence


 Core Reading

  M.Olson, The Theory of Collective Action, Chapters 2 and 6

Krueger, The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society, American Economic Review, 64, 3 , June 1974, 291-303

 G.Grossman and E.Helpman, Special Interest Politics, MIT Press, Chapters 1.1, 4.1, 7.1, 8.1

Ansolabehere, Stephen, John M. de Figueiredo, and James M. Snyder. "Why Is There so Little Money in US Politics?." The Journal of Economic Perspectives 17, no. 1 (2003): 105-130.

 Further Reading

Barber, B., Pierskalla, J., & Weschle, S. (2014). Lobbying and the collective action problem: comparative evidence from enterprise surveys. Business and Politics, 16(2), 221-246.

Hansen, W. L., Mitchell, N. J., & Drope, J. M. (2005). The logic of private and collective action. American journal of political science, 49(1), 150-167.

Bertrand, M., Bombardini, M., & Trebbi, F. (2014). Is It Whom You Know or What You Know? An Empirical Assessment of the Lobbying Process. The American Economic Review, 104(12), 3885-3920.

Joshua L. Kalla and David E. Broockman (2014) “Congressional Officials Grant Access to Individuals Because They Have Contributed to Campaigns: A Randomized Field Experiment”, American Journal of Political Science.

Langbein, L. I. (1986). Money and access: Some empirical evidence. The journal of politics, 48(04), 1052-1062.

Mell, A., Radford, S., & Thevoz, S. A. (2015). Is There a Market for Peerages? Can Donations Buy You a British Peerage? A Study in the Link Between Party Political Funding and Peerage Nominations, 2005-14, University of Oxford Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series No. 744

A.Nownes, Total Lobbying, Cambridge University Press, especially chapter 2


Week 9. Institutionalism - Wyn Grant 

  • What are the distinctions between rational choice, historical and social constructivist institutionalisms?
  • What is ‘path dependency’?


 Core Reading

 Peter A Hall and Rosemary Taylor, ‘Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms’, Political Studies, 44(5) 1996

B. Guy Peters, Institutional Theory in Political Science, 2005. chapters 3, 4 &; 5

V Lowndes and M Roberts, Why Institutions Matter

 Further Reading

Mark Blyth, Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Ellis Krauss and R J Pekakanen, The Rise and Fall of Japan's LDP: Political Party Organizations as Historical Institutions, Cornell University Press, 2011.

W Streeck and K Thelen (eds), Beyond Continuity Oxford University Press, 2011.

V Schmidt, 'Taking ideas and discourse seriously: explaining change through discursive institutionalism as the fourth "new institutionalism"', European Political Science Review, 2(1), 2010

V Schmidt, 'Discursive instututionalism: the explanatory power of ideas and discourse', Annual Review of Political Science, 11 (2008), 303-26.

F Paniza and P. Miorelli, 'Taking Discourse Seriously: Discursive Institutionalism and Post-structuralist Discourse Theory', Political Studies (2013), 301-18

John L. Campbell, "Institutional Analysis and the Role of Ideas in Political Economy,"Theory and Society, Vol. 27, No. 3 (June) 1998:

Patrick Dunleavy, Democracy, Bureaucracy and Public Choice, Harvester Wheatsheaf 1991

P. Hall, ‘Path Dependence’ in G. King et al. (eds) The Future of Political Science, 246-8..

J March and Johan. P. Olsen. “The New Institutionalism: Organizational Factors in Political Life”,American Political Science Review, 78(3) 1984

J. G. March &; J. P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions, Free Press 1989

Douglas North and Barry Weingast, ‘Introduction: Institutional Analysis and Economic History’, The Journal of Economic History, (2000), 60 : 414-41

P. Pierson, ‘Increasing Returns, Path Dependence and the Study of Politics’, American Political Science Review, 94 (2000), 251-67

P. Pierson, Politics in Time: History Institutions and ~Social Analysis, Princeton University Press 2004.

 Related Web-sites

 The Ronald Coase Institute:


 Week 10 - Institutionalism – Ben Lockwood

  • Institutions, Institutional Change, Path-Dependency: Definitions
  • Path Dependency: Theory and Empirical Evidence
  • Greif’s Theory of Endogenous Institutional Change
  • Institutional Changes as Precommitment: Theory and Evidence


Core Reading

Calvert, R. 1995. Rational Actors, Equilibrium, and Social Institutions. Pp. 57-95 in Explaining Social Institutions, eds. J. Knight and I. Sened. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

K.A.Shepsle, "Rational Choice Institutionalism", in the Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions, eds. S. Binder, R. Rhodes, and B. Rockman.

A.Greif, Instutions and the Path to the Modern Economy, especially chapter 6

D.Acemoglu and J.Robinson, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, esp. Ch 5

Further Reading

Becker, S. O., & Woessmann, L. (2009). Was Weber wrong? A human capital theory of Protestant economic history. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 531-596.

Becker, S. O., Boeckh, K., Hainz, C., & Woessmann, L. (2015). The empire is dead, long live the empire! Long‐run persistence of trust and corruption in the bureaucracy. The Economic Journal.

Jeff Sachs paper

D.Acemoglu, Johnson,D and J.Robinson (2001). The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation. The American Economic Review, 91(5), 1369-1401.

Rodrik, D., Subramanian, A., & Trebbi, F. (2004). Institutions rule: the primacy of institutions over geography and integration in economic development. Journal of economic growth, 9(2), 131-165.

Aidt, T. S., & Franck, R. (2015). Democratization under the threat of revolution: evidence from the great reform act of 1832. Econometrica, 83(2), 505-547.


Questions for the Seminars, Week 2

  • What is the naturalist methodology of social science? To what extent does research in economics and politics follow its prescriptions?
  • What is the rational choice postulate? What role does it play in economics?
  • What do we mean by methodological individualism? Does its use represent one significant difference between the study of economics and politics?
  • How do economics and politics differ in the way in which they treat institutions?


Questions for the Seminars, Week 3

  • How far do you agree with Hay's critique of public choice? What 'solutions' might there be to the problems that Hay identifies?
  • Does a theory like that advanced by Downs make it easier for politicians to manipulate voters or does it make them more responsive to their concerns?
  • Are the assumptions made in the median voter theorem too unrealistic?

 Questions for the Seminars, Week 4


  • Can the public choice approach explain individual voting behaviour?
  •  Explain how policy convergence can occur in the Downsian theory, and when it might not occur.
  • In what ways, if any does the citizen-candidate theory of electoral competition improve on the Downsian theory?
  • To what extent do we observe policy convergence in practice?


Questions for the Seminars, Week 5


  • Is the Tragedy of the Commons still relevant?
  • Does Elinor Ostrom offer a credible alternative analysis and set of prescriptions to the Tragedy of the Commons?
  • Can her approach be scaled up to cope with the challenge of climate change?


Questions for the Seminars, Week 7

  • Compare and contrast the private, state, and collective modes of provision of public goods. Give examples of each.
  • How can public choice theory help inform the design of workable international treaties?
  • What are the problems in "scaling up" Ostrom's approach to management of common property resources to the international level?


 Questions for the Seminars, Week 8 

  • What are the main insights to be derived from Olson's Logic of Collective Action
  • What are the main incentives that encourage individuals to participate in cause groups or social movements?
  • What is the role of the state in relation to interest groups?

Questions for the Seminars, Week 9

  • Do you find Olson's Logic of Collective Action to be a convincing explaniation of why special interest groups form? If not, why not?
  • Distinguish between the rent-seeking and informational roles of special interest groups. Which do you think is more important in practice? Should interest groups be encourgaged or discouraged?

 Questions for the Seminars, Week 10 

  • What is meant by path-dependence? What evidence is there that it occurs?
  • Explain how Greif's theory of institutional reinforcement can acount for institutional change
  • How can the extension of the franchise help elites precommit to redistribution? Do you find this a convincing explaination for the spread of democracy?













Past Exam Papers

2014 Exam paper

2013 exam paper

Outline answers

2012 Exam paper

Outline answers 

2011 Exam paper 

2010 Exam paper 

Lecture capture

Lecture 1, 12 January: Lecture 1

Lecture 2, 19 January: Lecture 2

Lecture 3, 26 January: Lecture 3

Lecture 4, 2 February: Lecture 4

Lecture 5, 9 February: Lecture 5

Lecture 6, 23 February: Lecture 6

Lecture 7, 1 March: Lecture 7

Lecture 8, 8 March: Lecture 8

Lecture 9, 15 March: Lecture 9

Wyn Grant revision lecture, 3 May: Revision Lecture