lecturenotes2.1 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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LECTURE NOTES UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2010 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz 1
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Hunk 2 Political Theory There are two kinds of political theory. Normative theory examines how to justify or evaluate political institutions and policies (e.g., What kind of government should we have?). Positive theory seeks to explain and predict political behavior, policies, and institutions (e.g., Why do we have the kind of government that we do?). In this class we are concerned more with positive theory, with explanation. The distinction is not razor sharp. Sometimes one “rationale” is a plausible justification and explanation of an institution, practice, or policy. Example: Most of us prefer protection from theft to the chance to steal, and that plausibly justifies and explains why we have laws against theft. Why have government? One can approach this question either normatively or positively. One can ask why do we have it or why should we have it. Plato, in The Republic , briefly entertains two answers. The book shows Socrates conversing with other characters about justice, and the two answers come from two of those characters. 1. Thrasymachus contends that justice is simply the will of the stronger , hence that there is no transcendent standard of justice. The underlying assumption is that governments are put in place to serve the interests of the rulers - - who are few compared with their subjects. 2. The second answer, offered by Glaucon , is that government helps people achieve mutual security by protecting them from each other and also from foreign invaders: you are a net loser if you can prey on others but they in turn can prey on you, so you prefer protection from predators (murderers, rapists, thieves, frauds) to the chance to prey (to murder, rape, steal, defraud). More generally, government fosters mutual advantage , or cooperation . That both justifies government and explains its existence. This raises a problem: Government coerces. It limits our liberty. It stops us from doing things we want to do. How can one benefit by being stopped from doing what one wants to do? The answer: Everyone benefits from having his liberties limited, provided everyone else has his liberties likewise limited. That way everyone is protected. Strictly speaking, what benefits you is not the limit on your own liberty but the limits on everyone else’s liberty We may see this idea at work in a famous example, called the prisoner’s dilemma . Suppose Prof. Chalkdust suspects two students of cheating but cannot prove it without a confession. So he offers them the following deal: If both of you confess, then both of you will fail the course. If one of you confesses and other does not, then the one who confesses will get an A, while the other will be expelled, exiled to USC. If neither of you confesses, then (sad to say) you will both get Bs. We can capture this game in the following matrix.
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lecturenotes2.1 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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