Public Choice and Politics

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Torun Dewan

Additional teachers: Rafael Hortala-Vallve


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Government and Economics. This course is available on the BSc in Business Mathematics and Statistics, BSc in Government, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students will normally be expected to have taken GV101 Introduction to the Study of Politics, or equivalent, in a previous year. An introductory knowledge of economics would be useful.

Course content

This course is concerned with positive political economy and public choice theory applied to the study of political conflicts, democratic institutions and public policy. The course covers the main tools for the study of public choice (rational decision-making theory, game theory, social choice theory) and a number of both theoretical and applied topics, including the empirical study of institutions. This course will cover the main topics in positive political economy and institutional public choice. These include: the aggregation of preferences; voting paradoxes and cycles; electoral competition and voting behaviour; the problems of and solutions to collective action; welfare state and redistribution; the impact of information and mass media on voting behaviour and public policy; the theory of coalitions, the behaviour of committees and legislatures including agenda-setting and veto-player power; principal-agent problems in politics; models of bureaucracy.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

Lectures will run from Weeks 1-5 and 7-11 in MT and LT. Classes will run from Weeks 2-5 and 7-11 in MT and Weeks 1-5 and 7-11 in LT.

Formative coursework

Students will complete at least one formative essay and at least one timed essay in each term to allow practise on problem sets and essay writing under exam conditions.

Indicative reading

Text Books: P Dunleavy, Democracy, Bureaucracy and Public Choice; D Mueller, Public Choice III; K A Shepsle & M S Bonchek, Analyzing Politics; George Tsebelis Veto Players. Major Works: A Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy; M Olson, The Logic of Collective Action; W Niskanen, Bureaucracy and Representative Government.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

The exam will have two parts. Part A is a compulsory question. In Part B, candidates will answer two questions from eight posed.



The Class Summary Grade for General Course students will be calculates as follows: 25% formative essay (best mark), 25% timed essay (best mark), 50% class participation (including presentations and attendance).

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
First 16.1
2:1 44.5
2:2 32.3
Third 6.5
Fail 0.6

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2015/16: 63

Average class size 2015/16: 13

Capped 2015/16: No

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 77%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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