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Political Economy

This book offers a rigorous, concise, and nontechnical introduction to some of the fundamental insights of rational choice theory. It draws on formal theories of microeconomics, decision making, games, and social choice, and on ideas developed in philosophy, psychology, and sociology. Itzhak Gilboa argues that economic theory has provided a set of powerful models and broad insights that have changed the way we think about everyday life. He focuses on basic insights of the rational choice paradigm--the general conceptualization rather than a particular theory--that survive recent (and well-justified) critiques of economic theory’s various failures. Gilboa explains the main concepts in language accessible to the nonspecialist, offering a nonmathematical guide to some of the main ideas developed in economic theory in the second half of the twentieth century.

Chapters cover feasibility and desirability, utility maximization, constrained optimization, expected utility, probability and statistics, aggregation of preferences, games and equilibria, free markets, and rationality and emotions. Online appendixes offer additional material, including a survey of relevant mathematical concepts.

The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches

The idea of America as politically polarizedthat there is an unbridgeable divide between right and left, red and blue stateshas become a cliché. What commentators miss, however, is that increasing polarization in recent decades has been closely accompanied by fundamental social and economic changesmost notably, a parallel rise in income inequality. In Polarized America, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal examine the relationships of polarization, wealth disparity, immigration, and other forces, characterizing it as a dance of give and take and back and forth causality. Using NOMINATE (a quantitative procedure that, like interest group ratings, scores politicians on the basis of their roll call voting records) to measure polarization in Congress and public opinion, census data and Federal Election Commission finance records to measure polarization among the public, the authors find that polarization and income inequality fell in tandem from 1913 to 1957 and rose together dramatically from 1977 on; they trace a parallel rise in immigration beginning in the 1970s. They show that Republicans have moved right, away from redistributive policies that would reduce income inequality. Immigration, meanwhile, has facilitated the move to the right: non-citizens, a larger share of the population and disproportionately poor, cannot vote; thus there is less political pressure from the bottom for redistribution than there is from the top against it. In "the choreography of American politics" inequality feeds directly into political polarization, and polarization in turn creates policies that further increase inequality.