Join us for upcoming events with Jon Elster (Columbia), Mario Rizzo (NYU), Bernardo Zacka (MIT), Sheilagh Ogilvie (Cambridge), Larry Bartels (Vanderbilt), Roger Schoenman (UC Santa Cruz) and Gary Cox (Stanford).

March 6: 6:30-8PM, Great Hall, Strand Campus

Jon Elster (Columbia University)

Emotions in History

Emotions trigger many human actions, notably in conflictual situations. The talk will first consider models of emotional choice versus rational choice, and then consider selected episodes from 18th century French and American political history to argue for the crucial importance of emotions of anger fear, and enthusiasm.

March 19: 4:30-6PM, Strand S3.30

Mario Rizzo (NYU)

What Kind of Puppet Are You? Rationality and Behavioral Economics

The standard rationality assumptions of neoclassical economics were consciously adopted as unrealistic. They were designed to create “puppets” that would give utility functions a firm axiomatic foundations and generate determinate market behavior. Behavioral economics treats these puppet characteristics as a normative ideal by which the behavior of real-world individuals is to be judged. When individual behavior is found wanting by this standard, the object of behavioral policy is to make people behave like neoclassical puppets. This is a grave mistake which will be discussed and illustrated.

March 26: 4:30-6PM, Strand S3.30

Bernardo Zacka (MIT)

On Morality and Street-Level Bureaucracy: A Perspective From Political Theory

When citizens interact with the state, they encounter street-level bureaucrats—the welfare workers, police officers, counselors and educators responsible for implementing public policy and enforcing the law. By combining political theory with participant observation in a public service agency, I argue that street-level bureaucrats are caught in a troubling predicament. The proper implementation of public policy depends on their capacity to act as sensible moral agents, yet they must operate in a bureaucratic environment that tends to truncate that very moral agency.

May 9: 6:30-8PM, Location TBA

Sheilagh Ogilvie (Cambridge)

Book Launch: The European Guilds

Guilds ruled many crafts and trades from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, and have always attracted debate and controversy. They were sometimes viewed as efficient institutions that guaranteed quality and skills. But they also excluded competitors, manipulated markets, and blocked innovations. Did the benefits of guilds outweigh their costs? Analyzing thousands of guilds that dominated European economies from 1000 to 1880, The European Guilds uses vivid examples and clear economic reasoning to answer that question.

May 14: 6:30-8PM, Bush House South, Lecture Theatre 2 (4.04)

Larry Bartels (Vanderbilt)

Political Inequality in Affluent Democracies

I examine the relationship between public opinion and social spending in thirty affluent democracies over the past three decades. I find that governments’ responsiveness to citizens’ preferences was highly skewed in favor of affluent citizens, who were generally less supportive of the welfare state than poor citizens were. This bias in responsiveness reduced the equilibrium level of social spending in most countries by 10-15%. Separate analyses of subsets of country-years differentiated by political culture, democratic consolidation, electoral and policy-making institutions, national wealth, and economic inequality produced significant evidence of severe disparities in responsiveness in every case. These findings suggest that political inequality is rampant in contemporary affluent democracies.

May 23: 4:30-6PM, Bush House South 2.06

Roger Schoenman (UC Santa Cruz)

We Love You, We Love You Not? Foreign Investment Policy and the New Right in Post-Communism

How have post-communist nations in Central and Eastern Europe navigated the dual pressures of attracting FDI and keeping their anti-business and anti-FDI promises to their electorates? Roger Schoenman (UC Santa Cruz) explores the cases of the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS), Hungary’s Fidesz, Slovakia’s Social Democrats under Robert Fico and Bulgaria’s GERB government.

June 5: 6:30-8PM, Bush House South Lecture Theatre 2 (4.04)

Gary Cox (Stanford)

Patent Disclosure and England’s Industrial Revolution 

Did the English patent system help spark the Industrial Revolution? Most scholars addressing this question have focused on whether patents improved the economic incentive to invent.  In contrast, I focus on whether patents improved access to useful knowledge—via the requirement (instituted in 1734) that patentees provide technical specifications for their inventions.  I document a structural break in per-capita patenting in 1734—but only in London, where specifications were stored.  I also document a structural shift in London-based inventors’ responsiveness to non-metropolitan patents in 1734, when specifications for them became regularly available.  The results speak to the importance of public policies that can catalyze strategic complementarities in research.

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