A Behavioral Theory of Elections

A Behavioral Theory of Elections

A Behavioral Theory of Elections

A Behavioral Theory of Elections


Beautiful, romantic and spirited, Pannonica, known as Nica, named after her father's favorite moth, was born in 1913 to extraordinary, eccentric privilege and a storied history. The Rothschild family had, in only five generations, risen from the ghetto in Frankfurt to stately homes in England. As a child, Nica took her daily walks, dressed in white, with her two sisters and governess around the parkland of the vast house at Tring, Hertfordshire, among kangaroos, giant tortoises, emus and zebras, all part of the exotic menagerie collected by her uncle Walter. As a debutante, she was taught to fly by a saxophonist and introduced to jazz by her brother Victor; she married Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, settled in a ch¢teau in France and had five children. When World War II broke out, Nica and her children narrowly escaped back to England, but soon after, she set out to find her husband who was fighting with the Free French Army in Africa, where she helped the war effort by being a decoder, a driver and organizing supplies and equipment.In the early 1950s Nica heard " 'Round Midnight" by the jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and, as if under a powerful spell, abandoned her marriage and moved to New York to find him. She devoted herself to helping Monk and other musicians: she bailed them out of jail, paid their bills, took them to the hospital, even drove them to their gigs, and her convertible Bentley could always be seen parked outside downtown clubs or up in Harlem. Charlie Parker would notoriously die in her apartment in the Stanhope Hotel. But it was Monk who was the love of her life and whom she cared for until his death in 1982.Hannah Rothschild has drawn on archival material and her own interviews in this quest to find out who her great-aunt really was and how she fit into a family that, although passionate about music and entomology, was reactionary in always favoring men over women. Part musical odyssey, part love story, The Baroness is a fascinating portrait of a modern figure ahead of her time who dared to live as she wanted, finally, at the very center of New York's jazz scene.


The capacity of the human mind for formulating and
solving complex problems is very small compared with the
size of the problems whose solution is required for
objectively rational behavior in the real world—or even for
a reasonable approximation to such objective rationality

—Herbert Simon (1957, p. 198; original emphasis)

One may speak of grand campaign strategy, rationally
formulated and executed with precision, but a great deal
of campaign management rests on the hunches that guide
day-to-day decisions. The lore of politics includes rules
of thumb that are supposed to embody the wisdom of
political experience as guides to action.

—V. O. Key (1964, p. 468)

AN INTELLECTUAL REVOLUTION has occurred in political science: the diffusion of rational choice theories. The study of elections has been one of the most receptive subfields. All of its major components— party competition (Downs 1957), turnout (e.g., Riker and Ordeshook 1968), and voters’ choices (Downs’s spatial-proximity theory; see Merrill and Grofman 1999)—have been strongly influenced by rational choice models.

We think this has been a salutary development for both the discipline in general and the study of elections in particular. The rational choice program has given political science a much-needed degree of intellectual coherence. This new-found coherence connects subfields both by causal claims—we can now more easily see the connections between foreign and domestic politics via, e.g., models of interest groups on trade policy (Grossman and Helpmann 1994)— and by giving us ideas that unify previously disconnected subfields— e.g., problems of credible commitment in governmental borrowing (North and Weingast 1989) and in fights over succession (Powell 2004). Rational choice theories have generated some predictions that have stood up rather well to empirical tests: delegation to congressional committees (Krehbiel 1991), macroeconomic effects of partisan elections (Alesina and Rosenthal 1995), bureaucratic independence (Huber and Shipan 2002), fiscal effects of constitutions (Persson and Tabellini 2003), and cabinet formation and stability . . .

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