Bounded Rationality and Politics

Bounded Rationality and Politics

Bounded Rationality and Politics

Bounded Rationality and Politics

Synopsis

In Bounded Rationality and Politics, Jonathan Bendor considers two schools of behavioral economics--the first guided by Tversky and Kahneman's work on heuristics and biases, which focuses on the mistakes people make in judgment and choice; the second as described by Gerd Gigerenzer's program on fast and frugal heuristics, which emphasizes the effectiveness of simple rules of thumb. Finding each of these radically incomplete, Bendor's illuminating analysis proposes Herbert Simon's pathbreaking work on bounded rationality as a way to reconcile the inconsistencies between the two camps. Bendor shows that Simon's theory turns on the interplay between the cognitive constraints of decision makers and the complexity of their tasks.

Excerpt

I have been studying the relation between bounded rationality and politics off and on for almost thirty years. (I work slowly.) the essays in this book, however, are all from the last dozen or so years. All of the chapters share a simple premise: cognitive constraints often affect judgment and choice in powerful ways. Hence, models of full (unbounded) rationality are ignoring causally important variables. How much they are missing depends on the difficulty of the problems tackled by decision makers. the harder their problems, the more cognitive constraints bind (Simon 1996) and the greater their causal impact.

But for several reasons this book is not another critique of rational choice (RC) theories. First, I am more interested in providing alternatives to classical models of decision making than in critiquing them. of course the two activities are intertwined, but the latter badly needs the former: you can’t beat something with nothing. As Shepsle has cautioned us, “The First Law of Wing Walking [is] don’t let go of something unless you have something else to hang onto” (1996, p. 217). This advice is based on a sound appreciation of the sociology of science, and a good case can be made for it as a normative decision rule as well.

Second, I think that most critics of rc theories (e.g., Green and Shapiro 1994) have seriously underestimated the contributions that many of these theories have made to political science. They have given us insights into overlooked problems such as those of collective action; they have given us bold predictions such as the median voter theorem. Critics point . . .

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