GOV 355M • 1 - Human Behavior as Rational Action - W
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
The term "rational action," as used in the economic approach, is generally equated with maximizing behavior. Individual human agents are assumed to have consistent and stable preferences over alternatives, each of which is assigned some "utility." Maximization entails choosing the course of action that yields the highest expected utility. One is rational to the extent one uses the best means to achieve one's goals.
In this course we will learn a variety of social and political models based on such a notion of individual rationality and to investigate the collective consequences that can be logically inferred from its assumptions. In particular, we will find through the "Prisoner's Dilemma," the "Tragedy of the Commons," and the "Free-Rider Problem" a contrast between rational man and irrational society. Self-serving behavior of individuals does not usually lead to collectively satisfactory results.