In my second year at Wisconsin, in the fall of 2004, I taught for the first time the second course of a new sequence in formal theory. Leaning on my own graduate training, I organized the syllabus around Persson and Tabellini’s Political Economics—the book from which I learned many models of politics. It didn’t last long. Political Economics is a monumentally important work, but as the title suggests, it assumes an understanding of economics that many Ph.D. students in political science do not have. To compensate, I began to write and distribute lecture notes that took the same models but separated the economy from the fundamental political logic.
That exercise in translation was the foundation for my textbook on Formal Models of Domestic Politics. Before long, I was adding models not in Persson and Tabellini that I thought both political scientists and economists should know. By the time I was finished, I was steeped in literatures I only vaguely understood when I started—yet my desire to cover more was always held in check by trimming and rewriting, as I sought to keep the text as accessible as possible. I finished and taught the final draft in the spring of 2012 at Harvard.
Eight years is a long time in academic research, and much has been published since Formal Models of Domestic Politics went to press. Hoping to stay just a few steps behind the field, I have been working on a second edition. If all goes as planned, I will be teaching a near-finished text to Chicago students in early 2021, with the manuscript going to production shortly thereafter. With a year to go, this seems a good time to discuss the broad contours of the next edition—what is new, what is tweaked, and what is missing. Beginning with this blog post, and continuing over the next couple of months, I will lay out the structure of Formal Models of Domestic Politics, Second Edition.
Let me begin by setting expectations. The revised text will not be the Mas-Colell, Whinston, and Green of politics. My vision has always been that Formal Models of Domestic Politics would serve as the primary but not exclusive resource for courses in formal theory and political economy. As before, the emphasis will be on clarity rather than comprehensiveness. What this means in practice is a book maybe 30% longer than the original. The big addition is a chapter on nondemocracy—a literature too immature to warrant coverage in the first edition. Most other chapters feature detailed coverage of one or two new models, plus several new exercises, many themselves based on research papers. I have also rewritten a few sections.
So, what is in the new text? I will be specific beginning with the next post. In the meantime, it might be useful to describe how I choose what to include. The models in Formal Models of Domestic Politics are a subset of 1) those I know, which 2) I believe represent important theories or modeling approaches and 3) I can write on a blackboard, while 4) fitting into the narrative flow of the text. Of the four constraints, the first is perhaps the most important. I try to read widely, in both political science and economics, but I undoubtedly miss a great deal. As for the second, there is no accounting for taste, as my former colleague Melanie Manion is wont to say. Again, I anticipate that instructors will supplement Formal Models of Domestic Politics with other work they want their students to learn.
The third constraint is driven by the underlying pedagogy of the text: models are learned by walking through the analysis, step by step, with a reasonable limit to the number of steps and tools required. If I cannot figure out how to strip down a model—if I am unable to distill an elaborate research paper into several pages of self-contained argument—then I cannot include it. Finally, the last constraint is just a matter of logistics: if a model isn’t central to the topics that I have idiosyncratically chosen to cover, or if it substantively belongs in an earlier chapter but requires material introduced later, then it doesn’t fit.
With all this as preface, I now proceed to describe Formal Models of Domestic Politics, Second Edition. First up, in the next post: the chapter on veto players, the centerpiece of which is new material on dynamic veto bargaining. Stay tuned…