GBD 2 Democracy

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“American Spring”

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“Occupy Wall Street”


Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Jalani Cobb that America is going through a “regime” change?  

What role do social movements play in democracies? 

Can social movements bring lasting change? 

Be sure to refer to sections on democracy and human rights in this week’s reading, Poli Sci Intro (file attached) and the section on collective action problems in lecture listed below 

Your posts in the discussion should demonstrate critical thought, creativity and mastery of the subject matter. Each post should be at least two well developed paragraphs unless otherwise stated in the prompt. Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Link for Occupy Wall Street:


What is Political Science?

  • Inevitably, social choices breed conflict. Politics is how people manage such conflicts. This is not always done successfully (civil war) but it is necessary or our lives.
  • Politics is the process through which individuals and groups reach agreement on a course of common, or collective action—even as they disagree in the intended goals of that action.
  • Success at politics almost always requires bargaining and compromise. Reconciling preferences represents a fundamental problem of governance.

The Importance of Institutional Design

  • As participants and preferences multiply and issues become more complex, unstructured negotiation rarely yields a collective decision all parties will accept. It may expose each side to too great a risk that the other will not live up to its agreements.
  • All organizations are governed by rules and procedures for making an enforcing decisions. We call these rules and procedures institutions.
  • A government consists of these institutions and the legally prescribed process for making and enforcing collective agreements. Government institutions consists of offices that confer on their occupants specific authority and responsibilities.

Collective Action Problems

  • The primary reason that we have government is to solve collective action problems. 
  • A  collective action problem refers to a situation where all individuals would be better off cooperating but fail to do so because of conflicting interests between individuals that discourage joint efforts. 
  • Governments provide public goods—their costs are born collectively and no one can be excluded from their benefits. 

    These problems often involve public goods (one individual can consume without reducing its availability to another individual, and from which no one is excluded). 
    For example: Environmental problems are an example of collective action problems. Everyone would benefit from having clean air but no individual person or entity has an economic incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. The solution to these problems is to have a third party (government) require individuals to engage in certain behaviors because we know it would benefit society as a whole. This example can also be applied to parks, beaches, paying for education, paying for roads, etc. 

Designing Institutions to Achieve Collective Action

  • The institutions that are best for solving collective action depend on what is being decided. If there is a desire for quick and decisive action, (fear of an imminent foreign threat) we may want to cede more authority to leaders and reduce transaction costs.
  • This is what some political scientists study– how does the type of government that you live under (presidential democracy, parliamentary democracy, dictatorship, etc.) impact how problems are solved? How does the type of government effect the economy, culture, democratic stability, etc.?


  • These different types of governments that political scientists study are all different forms of citizens delegating power to their government. 
  • When individuals or groups authorize someone to make and implement decisions for them, delegation occurs.
  • Social scientists who analyze delegation note that principals, those who possess decision making authority delegate their authority to agents who then exercise it on behalf of principals.
  • Delegation is so pervasive because it addresses common collective action problems. It is indispensable whenever expertise is needed for decisions to be made.
  • The discrepancy between what a principal would ideally like to do and what the agent does is called agency loss.

    Congress has created about 80 inspector general offices within the bureaucracy to check and monitor for agency failures and report them.

  • Modern democracies blend delegation with majority rule in what is known as a republic. They way that we delegate power depends on which type of government you live under (different types of democracy).

Note: Almost all of this material was taken from Clark, Golder and Golder

Clark, William Robert, Matt Golder, and Sona Nadenichek Golder. Principals of Comparative Politics. Washington D.C.: CQ Press. 

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