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PS101: Introduction to International Relations | James Fearon

Week 1 Introduction to the International System 


Section Objectives 

  1. Introduction to Section. Let’s get to know each other and what we should expect for section. What are the important policies you should know about section? What does good participation look like?

  2. Evolution of the International System. The international system has changed a lot since Thucydides wrote the Melian Dialogue. What have been some of the major events in the evolution of the international system? How have norms, particularly those emphasizing sovereignty, developed over time?

  3. Sovereignty & Annexation Exercise. Let’s put our new found knowledge to the test and analyze some ongoing territorial disputes today. How would they Athenians predict these disputes would end? Jackson & Rosberg? Do you have a different prediction?

Key Terms and Concepts

  • International Politics 

  • Peloponnesian War 

  • Melian Dialogue 

  • Treaty of Westphalia

  • UN System

  • De jure vs. De Facto Sovereignty

  • Failed States 

Important Section Policies & Assignments 

Most importantly, you should read my section syllabus! Most of these policies are listed either on the section or course syllabi, so it will be helpful for you to review the syllabi if and when you have questions. But, here are some bullet points on the most important things you need to know:

  • Attendance: Attendance is mandatory! Failure to attend section can serious harm your grade. If you know you are going to be absent, please let me know ahead of time. If the absence is excused (i.e. illness), you can write a 1-page commentary on the readings for that section and submit it to me via email by 4:30pm on the Monday following the section you missed. This assignment will count towards your participation for the week, but it will not count as one of the two response papers you must write during the quarter.

  • Section Participation: Contributing to class discussion is an important part of section participation, but remember it’s the quality, not the quantity of the contributions that matter. You should not feel pressured to say whatever comes to your mind just to “get your participation in.” I also recognize that some of you are less comfortable talking than others, so you can also gain participation credit by sending me a short paragraph raising a question or an interesting point about the readings for that week. If you would like to do this, please send me your short paragraph by noon on Thursday before section. Please note that this short paragraph cannot be part of your reading response paper.

  • Section Website: I want to emphasize that you should not rely solely on this website and notes for studying. I do not include everything about the readings in my overviews and knowing the material from lecture is also important. The material on the website is to remind you of what we covered and give a general idea of what the readings were about. It will not be sufficient to demonstrate your knowledge of the course material. In general, you can expect notes from section to be posted online on the Monday following section.

The Evolution of the International System

If there is one thing you should take away from this week’s lectures and readings is that you should avoid taking the current international system as “given” or a “natural fact.” At different times, the international system looked different. The organizing principles and institutions of the international system in 416 BC, 1648, and even in 1945 were different from the ones today. The current UN system is a product of various different international agreements and in many cases was intentionally designed—although imperfectly-- to try to deal with problems states were confronting at the time.


So, how did we get here and what has the international system looked like in the past?


Chapter 1 of FLS provides you with a good and more detailed overview of the history of the modern interstate system. But let’s look at three periods of time. How have norms about state’s “rights” over this period and why? What are some of the consequences of these norms?

Greek City-State System

  • Major Events: Melian Dialogue 

  • Historical Background: The Melian Dialogue occurs during the Peloponnesian War, which was in many ways sparked by the Athenians quick ascent to power following the Greco-Persian Wars. The Peloponnesian War pitted Athens (and the other city-states with whom they were allied) against Sparta (also referred to as Lacedaemon) and their allies. At the time of the Melian Dialogue, these two city-states had been at peace with each other for about 6 years. However, both sides remained highly suspicious of one another and sought to solidify their relative spheres of influence. Melos, which was technically a colony of Sparta, had remained neutral during the war. Its neutrality, however, was unacceptable to the Athenians who sought to pressure it into submission.

  • Norms: “The strong do what they can while the weak suffer what they must.”

    The Athenians argued that there are no norms restricting the powerful from pursuing their interests and acted accordingly. Although the Melians argued that other large city-states (in particular, Sparta) would save them, they were ultimately wrong. The Spartans did not act to restrain the Athenians (at least in this case) because they were not dedicated to any international norm and instead acted in their own interests. Unlike today, the Athenians were not afraid to highlight openly that vast inequalities between them and the Melians.

Foundation of the Westphalian System (1648 AD)

  • Major Events: Treaty of Westphalia ends the 30 Years War

  • Historical Background: While most political communities operated in relative isolation until the 1500s, European exploration brought different societies in close connection and brought the European powers into conflict with one another. The British challenged the Spanish, finally defeating the Armada in 1588. In the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the French, Dutch, and other allies sealed the decline of the Spanish Empire. At the conclusion of the Thirty Years War, these powers signed the Treaty of Westphalia, which many cite as the beginning of the modern interstate system.

  • Norms: The Treaty of Westphalia is important because it introduced and (weakly) institutionalized the norm of sovereignty. In particular, Westphalian sovereigny includes: (1) Respect for territorial integrity, (2) Recognition that countries have the authority to rule over their territory and domestic polities in the manner they see fit, and (3) The principle of non-interference into other’s domestic affairs.

    Importantly, Westphalian sovereignty did not include any notion of equality. As we all know, although the European powers agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty, they did not recognize the sovereignty of smaller countries, which became parts of their colonial empires.

Formation of the Modern UN System (1945 AD)

  • Major Events: End of World War II

  • Historical Background: Following WWI, Woodrow Wilson devised the League of Nations as a way to promote cooperation and avoid letting anything like WWI happen again. But, as we know, the League of Nations failed and WWII began only 20 years later. There is a myriad of reasons why the League failed, but we’ll highlight a few here. For one, the League was quite limited: only certain states were invited to join and important geopolitical players – like Russia and Germany – were excluded. Colonialism also contributed to the instability of the League. While Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” (the set of demands outlined to end WWII) demanded that the interests of native populations in colonial territories should have equal weight in decisions as their colonial governments, member states to the League of Nations demanded that their territorial claims fell outside the institution’s purview. This created a double-standard and weakened the legitimacy of the entire institution.

  • Norms: The UN system has gone much further to institutionalize the norm of sovereignty. In particular, Article 2.4 of the UN charter states that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…” The UN system also introduced the notion of “sovereign equality.” Even though the security council gives China, Russia, UK, France, and the United States an “unequal voice” in the UN, the votes of all states are counted equally in the UN General Assembly. No longer do you see countries speaking with those far less powerful in the same manner as the Athenians did in the Melian Dialogue.

    Importantly, Jackson and Rosberg (1982) point out the current UN system strongly emphasizes de jure sovereignty instead of de facto sovereignty . To review:

    • De jure (Judicial) Sovereignty - ​The expressed and institutionally recognized (by other states in the international system) right to exercise control over a territory.

    • De facto (Empirical) Sovereignty - Actual control over a territory (i.e. ability to enforce laws and execute other functions of the state).

Sovereignty & Annexation Exercise

Motivation: The international system in 2016 looks very different from the international system in 416 BC, 1648, or even 1945 due, in part, to new norms about sovereignty and territorial integrity. What best predicts sovereignty over disputed land? This exercise asks you to apply readings and theory to predict the outcomes of two potential annexations.

Week 1

Additional Resources

  • Salopek, Paul. April 3, 2016. “Vladimir Putin’s Mysterious Moving Border.” Politico Magazine. Available here.

  • Brooke, James. August 12, 2013. “’Rural Berlin Walls’ Divide Communities After Russia-Georgia War.” VOA News. Available here.

  • Smith, Alex. June 5, 2010. “Lesotho’s people plead with South Africa to annex their troubled country.” The Guardian. Available here.

Week 2

Week 2 Strategic Interactions Under Anarchy 


Course Announcements

  1. Final Paper Materials. We’ve put some instructions for the final paper assignment (including notes about the check-in assignments you will do for this project throughout the quarter) up on Canvas. We’ve also compiled a “research starter kit” of materials for each possible paper topic. Don’t forget your project proposal will be due on two weeks from today

  2. We’ve gotten off schedule. We’ve fallen a bit behind the syllabus in lecture, so there’s a good chance that we won’t get to nationalism next week. To avoid having section and lecture out of sync then, we’ll push the Anderson and Huntington readings back to week 4. We’ll go over Dorsey (1992) and Jervis (1978) more explicitly next week, since we’re going to spend today focusing on the basics of game theory.

Section Objectives 

  1. A Primer on Game Theory. In this class, we’ll often use the language of game theory to describe and evaluate different kinds of strategic interactions in international relations. It’s important to make sure you understand the fundamentals of game theory, so you can make sense of some of the different kinds of arguments we are going to present you. So, by the end of today, you should be able to identify the Nash Equilibrium of a 2x2 game and determine if an outcome is Pareto efficient or not.

  2. IR Games Exercise. There are two broad kinds of cooperation problems that appear under anarchy: commitment problems and coordination ones. Next week, we’ll talk about how “serious” these problems are and to what extent they can be “solved.” But, for today (and to put our newfound game theory knowledge to the test), let’s go over two of the most famous games in IR: the prisoner’s dilemma and the stag hunt!

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Anarchy

  • Positive vs. Normative Theory

  • Pareto Efficiency

  • Nash Equilibrium

  • Collective Action / Commitment Problem

  • Prisoner's Dilemma

  • Coordination Problem

  • Stag Hunt

A Primer on Game Theory

Motivation: In class, Professor Fearon mentioned two traditional “views” of anarchy: the realists, who claimed that anarchy is really bad, and the idealists, who disagreed. The reality is that the severity of the problems of anarchy is somewhere in between. So, what problems does the lack of a world government create, and how should we evaluate how bad they are? To answer these questions, we need to learn some basic game theory.

Finding the Nash Equilibrium

When we analyze games, which are simplified, stylistic representations of some form of strategic interaction, we want to know what the natural prediction for the game is and whether or not it is a “good” outcome. The natural prediction of a game is the Nash Equilibrium. In a Nash equilibrium, each player is choosing optimally, given the choices of all the other players. In other words, no player has an incentive to deviate from their strategy, given the actions of the other players.


To find the Nash equilibrium, you want to check what each player’s “payoff” is for each of their possible actions, holding the other player’s decisions constant. Then, you repeat this process for each player and each of their potential strategies. It’s easier to explain through example, so let’s look below. The first number in each square refers to Player 1’s payoff for that outcome, and the second refers to Player 2’s payoff. Assume each player wants the largest payoff possible. (Don’t worry about how we got the numbers of strategies. It’s not important for now.)​

  • When P2 is playing A, what strategy yields the higher payoff for P1? X or Y?

    Y yields the higher payoff.

  • When P2 is playing B, what strategy yields the higher payoff for P1? X or Y?

    Y yields the higher payoff.

  • When P1 is playing X, what strategy yields the higher payoff for P2? A or B?

    B yields the higher payoff.

  • When P1 is playing Y, what strategy yields the higher payoff for P2? A or B?

    A yields the higher payoff.

So, which of the four outcomes do you think is the Nash equilibrium? For this game, the Nash equilibrium is (Y,A), i.e. the box where the payoffs for both players are underlined. Some games, however, do have more than one equilibrium. By following the process described above, you should be able to identify all the equilibria (for any games we would give you).


You might notice that Player 1 would prefer to choose Y, both when Player 2 chooses A and when she chooses B. This means that Y is Player 1’s dominant strategy. A player has a dominant strategy if he or she prefers the same action, regardless of what the other player chooses. Does Player 2 have a dominant strategy? No. Not every player has a dominant strategy in every game. It’s possible that neither or both players will have a dominant strategy.

Pareto Efficiency

Now that we’ve figured out how to determine the likely outcome of a game, let’s learn how to evaluate it. In game theory and in this class, we’ll use the standard of “Pareto Efficiency” to judge the outcome of a game. An outcome is Pareto Efficient , or Pareto optimal, if it is NOT possible to find an outcome where at least one play is better off without making another player worse off. By contrast, an outcome is Pareto INefficient if it is possible to identify another outcome where at least one player is better off and neither player is worse off.

The best way to check for Pareto efficiency is to check each outcome against all other outcomes individually. Basically, you want to convince yourself that your outcome is Pareto efficient because you can’t “move” to any other outcome without making one player worse off (while making at least one player better off). We’ll go over this a few times in class, so we’ll make sure that everyone gets it. It’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around, but once you do, you’ll be golden!


So, what’s the Pareto efficient outcome(s) in the 2x2 above? (Y, A) is the only Pareto efficient outcome. Thus, the equilibrium is also a “good” one.

Exercise: The Prisoner’s Dilemma and Stag Hunt

Motivation. There are two broad kinds of cooperation problems that appear under anarchy: commitment problems and coordination ones. Let’s put our knowledge of how to find Nash Equilibria and judge the Pareto efficiency of an outcome to the test! We want to make sure that you have a good grasp on what you need to know so that you can identify and analyze these problems on your own!

Commitment Problems

commitment problem is a type of interaction where players would be better off if they could cooperate, but one or both has an incentive to defect (or cheat) on their agreement. There are special types of commitment problems, such as collective action problems, but they all have the feature above. (Note: FLS calls commitment problem “collaboration problems.” We will not use this terminology in class). Let’s look at the most famous commitment problem below!

Example #1: The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Two criminals are arrested, but the prosecutors of their case do not have enough evidence to convict them both on the main charge. They do, however, have enough evidence to convict them each on a lesser charge. During interrogations, they separate the criminals so they have no means of communication, and they offer each a bargain. Each prisoner can betray the other by testifying that their partner committed the crime or to cooperate by remaining silent.


If both remain silent (that is, they cooperate), each will be convicted on a lesser charge and serve one year in prison (let’s say, a payoff of -1). If one betrays the other (that is, they defect) while the other cooperates, the one who talks will go free (a payoff of 0) and the one who remains silent will face 6 years in prison (a payoff of -6). If both rat on each other (both defect), both will face 4 years in prison (payoffs of -4).


  1. What is the Nash equilibrium of this game? 

    (Defect, Defect)

  2. Does either of the two prisoners have a dominant strategy? If so, what is it? 

    The dominant strategy for both players is to defect. For instance, even when Prisoner 2 is cooperating, it is in Prisoner 1’s best interest to defect and get no time in jail (and vice versa).

  3. Would the outcome of this game change if the prisoners could talk with one another? 

    No, the outcome should not change if the prisoners could talk with one another. Each would still have reason to doubt the other’s commitment, and both would still have a unilateral incentive to defect, even if the other cooperated.

  4. What outcome(s) is Pareto efficient?

    (Cooperate, Cooperate), (Defect, Cooperate), and (Cooperate, Defect) are all Pareto efficient outcomes. Only (Defect, Defect) is NOT Pareto efficient.

  5. Can you explain why the Prisoner’s dilemma is an example of a commitment problem? 

    The Prisoner’s Dilemma is an example of a commitment problem because both prisoner’s would be better off if they could credibly commit to cooperating (and receive only 1 year in prison), but can’t because they each have a unilateral incentive to defect.

  6. Can you think of any examples of interactions in IR that look like the prisoner’s dilemma?

    There are many examples in IR! In our class, we’ll talk about arming and war; trade protectionism; sovereign debt; and global commons problems.

Coordination Problems

coordination problem is a type of interaction where two actors (usually “states” in IR) benefit from synchronizing or harmonizing their action in some way in order to attain some desired good or avoid something bad. In a lot of coordination problems, parties will want to choose the same action, but this is not always the case. A classic, real-world example of the former is determining which side of the road to drive on. It doesn’t really matter which side of the road cars drive on, as long all cars drive on the same side so that they can avoid crashing into each other. But stop signs also act as a device to solve coordination problems. When you meet another car at an intersection, you want to go if the other car is going to stop, and you want to stop if the other car is going to go. So, coordination problems sometimes, but not always involve people or groups or states (or whoever the relevant actors are) wanting to choose the same action. Let’s look at a famous example of a coordination problem!

The story of the Stag hunt comes from Rousseau’s A Discourse on Inequality. Here, two hunters go out into the woods to hunt for food. They can either hunt a deer that has more than more than enough meat for the both of them or choose to individual hunt a rabbit. If both go after the deer, they will catch the deer (which, let’s say gives them a payoff of “4”). If both (on their own) go after a rabbit, each will catch a rabbit (a payoff of “1” each). Finally, if one goes after the deer and the other goes after the rabbit, the one chasing the rabbit will catch the rabbit (again, a payoff of “1”), but the other will not get anything (a payoff of “0”).


  1. What is the Nash equilibrium(s) of this game? 

    There are two Nash equilibria to this game: (Deer, Deer) and (Rabbit, Rabbit).

  2. Does either of the two hunters have a dominant strategy? If so, what is it? 

    No, neither hunter has a dominant strategy. Sometimes, the hunter wants to go after the deer (i.e. when the other is going after the deer), and other times the hunter wants to go after the rabbit (i.e. when the other is going after the rabbit).

  3. Why might the hunters go after the rabbits instead of the deer? 

    The hunter might go after the rabbit if it doesn’t trust the other hunter to go after the deer. Going after the deer is riskier because you could starve if the other hunter doesn’t join you. This is a potential way to think about how “trust” affects decisions in these kind of games.

  4. Would the outcome of this game change if the hunters could talk with one another? 

    Probably. Hunter 1 doesn’t have an incentive to say it is going to go after the deer if her/she does not intend to go after the deer. Talking would make it much easier to coordinate on which of the equilibria to follow.

  5. What outcome(s) is Pareto efficient? 

    (Deer, Deer) is Pareto efficient. All other outcomes are Pareto inefficient.

  6. Can you explain why the Stag Hunt is an example of a coordination problem? 

    The stag hunt is a coordination problem because the hunters benefit from harmonizing their actions in order to attain the “good” outcome (i.e. getting the deer) or to avoid the “bad” outcome (i.e. where one hunter starves). Notice that this game doesn’t have an “incentive to defect” if you know the other player is going to cooperate (i.e. choosing the deer).

  7. Can you think of any examples of interactions in IR that look like the stag hunt (or any other kind of coordination problem)? 

    Revolutions are a good example of a stag hunt game in real life. Imagine that all of the members of a society must revolt in order to topple their brutal dictator. If even one person does NOT take to the streets, the dictator will remain in power and punish those who did take to the street. If you KNOW that everyone else is going to take to the street, you will want to take to the streets as well. However, if you are worried that other people will not take to the streets, you want to stay at home so you can avoid being punished.

Additional Resources

  1. Murray, Ian. 2016. Brexit – The Prisoner’s Dilemma of Britain and the EU. ValueWalk . Accessed October 7th, 2016.

  2. Levy, Phil. 2011. The Multilateral Vacuum. Foreign Policy . Accessed October 7th, 2016.

Week 3

Week 3 Cooperation under Anarchy


Course Announcements

  1. Research Proposal Due Next Week! Don’t forget your research proposal for your final paper is due by 5:00pm next Thursday . The details for the assignment are outlined in the final paper instructions on Canvas, under “Part I.” Don’t worry if you haven’t figured out your argument or aren’t exactly sure how to connect your case knowledge to what we’ve been talking about in class. We mostly want to make sure that you’ve started reading about your case and you aren’t just reporting information that appears in the intro to the Wikipedia article on your topic.

  2. Midterm Review Session. The midterm is rapidly approaching! The exam will be on Monday, October 24th in class, and we’ll give you more details about what to expect next week. However, for now I just want to gauge your interest in having a midterm review session and whether you’d rather have it on Thursday or Sunday evening before the exam.

Section Objectives 

  1. Pelagic Sealing Case Study. Last week, we did a quick intro to game theory so we can understand some of the main concepts we’ll use to analyze the consequences of anarchy. This week, we’ll apply these concepts to the case of pelagic sealing and the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty. Students should be able to recognize the problem of pelagic sealing as a commitment problem, identify the strategy of reciprocity institutionalized in the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty, and explain why the treaty was able to sustain cooperation.

  2. China-India Arms Race Exercise. Arms racing presents a unique challenge to international cooperation. Let’s look at a contemporary case of arms racing and use our theories from class to predict the likely outcome of the military buildup between China and India. We’ll also use our theories to discuss what—if anything—can be done to limit hostilities between the two countries.


Key Terms and Concepts

  • Security Dilemma

  • Offense-Defense Balance

  • Arms Racing

  • Collective Action/Commitment Problem

  • 1911 Fur Seal Treaty

  • 1st vs. 2nd vs. 3rd Party Enforcement

  • Tit-for-Tat vs. Grim Trigger

  • International institutions

  • Limits of Conditional Cooperation

Section Quiz

  1. Which outcomes are Pareto efficient, and which are Pareto inefficient? (Bonus: What are the Nash equilibria? Is this a coordination or a commitment problem?)

    (Up, Right) and (Down, Left) are Pareto efficient. The other two outcomes are Pareto inefficient. There are two, pure strategy Nash equilibria: again, (Up, Right) and (Down, Left). This is a coordination Problem.

  2. Provide a definition of the security dilemma. How might we think the severity of the security dilemma affects the costs of anarchy?

    The security dilemma refers to the problem that independent actions by one state to increase its security (usually through arming) could make all states less secure. The SD is most severe when offense has the advantage (it is easier to take territory than defend it), and it means that states will have to sustain higher levels of arms to deter aggression from others. Because the money spent on these arms could have been spent elsewhere (like on education, food, etc.), arming is Pareto inefficient. The more states have to spend on arms to deter aggression, the less efficient it is and the costlier anarchy is.

Cooperation under Anarchy: The Case of Pelagic Sealing

In “Putting a Ceiling on Sealing,” Dorsey (1991) describes the origins of the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911. This case nicely illustrates some of the themes we’ve been talking about in class. (It also shows that the abstract models we talked about last week really do apply to the real world!). Let’s walk through Dorsey’s main arguments to make sure that we can identify the type of problem pelagic sealing posed and the strategy the 1911 Furs Seal Treaty used to enforce cooperation.

Problem: First things first: pelagic sealing is the killing of seals in the open ocean, as opposed to hunting them at their breeding grounds on the land. Large groups of fur seals bred on a bunch of small islands owned by the United States and Russia in the North Pacific, and this allowed the United States and Russia to benefit from trading their pelts. However, Canada, Great Britain, and Japan also wanted to benefit from this trade, so they began to the seals in the open ocean. Because the seals were being “picked off” in the ocean before they could reproduce on the islands owned by Russia and the United States, seal populations began to plummet.

This problem posed by pelagic sealing is really just another manifestation of the commitment problem. The United States & Russia’s could choose to share a percentage of the fur pelts with Great Britain, Japan, and Canada, or they could keep all the revenue from the fur pelts for themselves. Great Britain, Japan, and Canada, on the other hand, could choose to avoid pelagic sealing or continue to do it. Let’s see if we can come up with some payoffs for each of these outcomes!


So, what do we know? Well, we know that if Great Britain, Japan, and Canada engage in pelagic sealing, there will be fewer seals and consequently fewer seal pelts to trade. If those countries avoided pelagic sealing, however, the seal population could sustain itself. Thus, there would be more pelts. To reflect this, let’s say that the total number of pelts when pelagic sealing does occur is 4 and 10 when it does not occur.

Now, how does each country’s payoff change, depending on what actions the others take?

Question: If the value of all the seal pelts are “10” when countries avoid pelagic sealing, what is the payoff for the United States and Russia when the other countries avoid pelagic sealing? Right, 10. And how much does GB, Japan, and Canada get under this outcome? 0, good.

Now, for simplicity, let’s assume that when the US & Russia share some of the profits from the fur trade, they will do a 60-40 split. That means when the US and Russia share AND the others do not hunt seals in the open ocean, the US and Russia will get 6 and GB, Japan, and Canada will get 4. Does that make sense?


Now, let’s say that Great Britain, Japan, and continue decide to continue to engage in open seas sealing, so the total value of all the seal pelts is “4” since the population declined. If the US & Russia keeps all the revenue from the fur they collect while hunting and the GB, Japan and Canada keep what they collect by sealing in the open seas, then both sides will get a payoff of 2. If Russia and the United States share half of this revenue with the other countries, then they’ll only get 1 and Great Britain, Japan, and Canada will get 3 (1 from US and Russia, and 2 from their own sealing). Does that make sense?


QuestionDo you see how this game is a commitment problem? Can you figure out which action by the US & Russia corresponds with cooperate and which corresponds to defect? What about for Great Britain, Japan, and Canada?


This game illustrates a commitment problem. Cutting a percentage of the Fur Trade corresponds to cooperate for the United States & Russia and keeping all the revenue corresponds with defect. Similarly, avoiding open seas sealing corresponds with “cooperate” for Great Britain, Japan, and Canada, while engaging in pelagic sealing corresponds with “defect.” Although the payoffs are different than what we examined before, it still has the feature where both sides would be better off if they could cooperate (Cut % of Fur Trade, Avoid Open Seas Sealing), but are unable to credibly commit to doing so. The equilibrium is to defect (Keep all revenue, Continue pelagic sealing), and it is Pareto inefficient.


Now, understanding the problem of pelagic sealing in these terms, how were the United States, Russia, Canada, GB, and Japan capable of reaching the cooperative outcome? Well, it largely results from the fact that this interaction was repeated, which allowed both sides to use strategies of reciprocity to deter “defection.”

QuestionCan anyone explain to me what strategy the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty institutionalized to sustain cooperation?


In particular, the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty used a Tit-for-Tat strategy to deter defection. If Great Britain, Canada, and Japan reverted back to pelagic sealing, the United States and Russia would stop sharing a cut of the pelt revenue with them. By converse, if the United States and Russia stopped sharing the revenue, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan would go back to hunting the seals in the open ocean. This worked because the prospect for future gains offered by the cooperative outcome over and over outweighed what either side could gain from “defecting” in one period and reverting to the lower paying equilibrium.

To really illustrate why this is, imagine that that these countries will play the game we outlined above at least five times, but perhaps more. Let’s calculate each side’s payoff if they cooperate when the other side is playing the Tit-for-Tat strategy.


US & Russia: 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + … ≥ 30

Great Britain, Canada, & Japan: 4+ 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + … ≥ 20


Now let’s figure out what each side’s payoff would be if they began to defect. Again, for simplicity, let’s just calculate what their payment would be if they defected once and went back to cooperating when the other side was playing a Tit-for-Tat strategy.


US & Russia: 10 + 1 + 6+ 6 + 6 + … ≥ 29

Great Britain, Canada, & Japan: 3 + 0 + 4 + 4 + 4 + … ≥ 15


See? Both the US & Russia’s and Great Britain, Canada, & Japan’s payoffs will be lower if they defect even once than they would have been if they just cooperated. Unlike the one-shot version of a prisoner’s dilemma, it is in the best interests of the United States & Russia to cut the other countries part of the fur trade because Canada, GB, and Japan could credibly commit to “punishing” the United States by going back to open seas sealing and vice versa. Do you see why conditional cooperation works when the prisoner’s dilemma is repeated?

Arms Race Exercise


Week 4: Strategic Interactions Under Anarchy 


Course Announcements

  1. Midterm Review Session. Just a reminder that we will be having two review sessions for the Miderm: one tonight from and one tomorrow afternoon from 3:30-4:30pm in 300-300. We’ll be covering the same material in each review session, so there’s really no reason to come to both.

  2. Midterm Format. The midterm will be on Monday. By now, you’ve hopefully seen the midterm review sheet we’ve put up online. So you know, the midterm will consist of four ID questions and one essay question. You should plan to spend about 45 minutes on your IDs and 45 minutes on your essay.

Section Objectives 

  1. Nationalism. An underappreciated fact in international relations is that most of interstate conflict has been driven by nationalist sentiment. So, let’s delve into what exactly nationalism is, where it came from, and why people care about it so much.

  2. Intro to the Bargaining Range. We’ll delve more into the causes of bargaining failures and wars next week, but let’s familiarize ourselves with the bargaining range this week. By the end of this class, you should be able to explain what the bargaining range is and how it changes with the balance of power or costs of war.

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Wars of Imperialism vs. Nationalism

  • Primordialist vs. Modernist Accounts

  • Industrial Revolution

  • Print Capitalism

  • Creole Pioneers

  • Nations vs. Civilizations

  • Bargaining Range

  • Inefficiency of War

Section Quiz

  1. Provide a definition of second party enforcement and situate it within our class material. In particular, be sure to explain why this concept is important for the study of international relations and cite the readings if possible.

    Second party enforcement happens when parties to an agreement enforce their own agreement by the implicit threat of retaliation or withdrawal from cooperation. Second party enforcement is facilitated by repeated interaction, such that states can use conditional cooperation strategies—like tit-for-tat or grim trigger—to punish defection. Second party enforcement is important because it is the primary way that states are able to cooperate under anarchy, which allows them to avoid the Pareto inefficient outcomes that make anarchy costly. So, because states can often (but not always!) rely on second party enforcement, they are often able to avoid the costs of anarchy.

  2. What is the difference between a war of nationalism vs. a war of imperialism?

    A war of imperialism is when a strong state seeks to gain or hold territory populated by people who will be subjects rather than citizens. These wars are often for economic gain. A war of nationalism is when a state (or would be state) is fighting to get/keep land for their collective political community has some kind of cultural or historical claim to.


This week’s readings both address how groups begin to imagine a collective political identity. In many ways, we can think of Anderson’s and Huntington’s arguments as a continuation of each other: while Anderson details how we arrived at the “nation-state,” Huntington questions what comes next.

Anderson (1982) – Imagined Communities

  • How does Anderson define a nation? How does the “nation” differ from the two major cultural systems that existed prior to the nation-state?

    Anderson defines a nation as an “imagined political community,” which is both limited and sovereign. Let’s break this definition apart a little bit:

    • It is imagined because all members of a nation cannot possibly know each other.

    • It is a community because all members think of themselves as equal comrades (despite any real inequalities and hierarchies in society).

    • It is limited because nations do not try to encompass all of mankind.

    • It is sovereign because nations seek freedom, reflecting Enlightenment ideas about rule of & by the people.

    • The nation-state differs from religious communities and dynastic realms—the two major cultural systems prior to the nation state—in one major way. While these previous systems were linked by a common, often-sacred language, they also suggested a unique hierarchy among their members. For instance, dynastic realms envisioned a divine hierarchy of rulers over their subjects than members of an “equal” community. The power of these cultural systems eroded as enlightenment ideals called into question the principle of “divine legitimacy” and as “vernacularization” gave people a more direct access to their religious authorities.

  • How did the rise of print media contribute to national consciousness?

    According to Anderson, the rise of print media contributed to national consciousness in three steps:

    • Shift towards the Vernacular: While printing began in the 15th century, it was originally aimed at Latin readers. However, because the printing press gave publishing companies the ability to mass produce books, these companies realized they could make more money if they began to publish in vernacular languages. This caused a common discourse to emerge between people whose local dialects mad verbal interactions difficult, but who could read the same things. Thus, vernacularization gave rise to natural in-group and out-group boundaries.

    • Creation of Common Symbols: A common language allows nations to root themselves in the past and suggests a community between contemporary society and those from the past. In turn, poetry and songs celebrating the “nation” creates the sense of a community of selflessness.

    • New Apprehension of Time & Simultaneity: Prior to the Enlightenment, people did not have the same apprehension of time as we now do. Instead, the religious world view was based a concept of time where the past and present occurred simultaneously, which somewhat explains the numerous anachronisms in paintings from earlier times. However, with the rise of print media, people could read stories in newspapers of others they have never met that were happening at the same time as they undertook their daily activities. This led to the new concept of “homogenous empty time” and a new understanding simultaneity. In turn, these new concepts of time allowed people to view their nation as moving through time together

  • How does national consciousness become a political identity and lead to nationalism?

    National consciousness becomes a political identity when these groups encounter cultural barriers towards upward mobility. When governments discriminate on the basis of a cultural background, they provide a basis for those with that background to organize politically to create their own state.

  • Where does Anderson claim that the “nation-state” began?

    Unlike most accounts written at the time Anderson was writing, Anderson located the origins of the nation-state in the new world, not in Europe. In particular, Anderson credits “creole pioneers”—American-born Spanish and British descendants—to have created the nation-state first. People like Benjamin Franklin and Simon Bolivar played an important role in developing nationalism as a political doctrine by leading movements of national liberation.

  • Why did nationalism grow from the Spanish-American Empire’s creole population?

    Anderson’s main argument emphasizes print capitalism and barriers to upward mobility. While he admits that the Spanish increasing its taxes on its colonies and enlightenment ideals of rule of and by the people contributed to people’s problems with Madrid, he argues that it does not explain why this lead to the development of separate nationalisms. So, what role did print capitalism & barriers to upward mobility play?

    • Print Capitalism = In the Spanish colonies, creoles read newspapers that described events going on in their provinces, not what was going on in Spain. Therefore, people’s national consciousness was primed to identify their province as their “group of people,” instead of those in Madrid even though they did share much in common with the people living in Spain.

    • Barriers to upward mobility = The Spanish refused to appoint those born in the new world to positions higher than positions in the administrative centers in which they were born. This led the creole population under the Spanish-American empire to develop a separate nationalism from the Spanish Empire.

Huntington (1993) – “Clash of Civilizations”

I suggested above that we should think of Huntington’s argument as less of an argument against Anderson’s and more of a continuation. Here, Huntington is not disputing Anderson’s arguments about the origins of the nation state. Rather, he is suggesting that the political identity of the nation-state is now weakening and suggests that civilizations will be the next overarching way groups will identify in international interactions. Again, I’ve outlined a few questions and answers below to help connect Huntington’s argument to Anderson’s and what we will talk about in lecture.

  • How does Huntington define a “civilization”?

    Huntington defines a civilization as “the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have.” Further, he argues that those in a given civilization share many common “objective elements,” such as language, history, customs, institutions, and religion.

  • What makes a “civilizational” collective identity different and/or more distinct from previous collective political identities?

    Huntington argues that civilizational differences are more fundamental than differences among political ideologies or regimes because a person’s civilization contributes largely to how he or she thinks about the most basic political questions. What is the proper relationship between the church and the state? What are citizens’ responsibilities to the state and vice versa? Moreover, these differences are the product of a long history, so Huntington believes that they are unlikely to change easily.

  • How has globalization contributed to nation-states identifying according to civilizations?

    In many ways, globalization makes the world “smaller.” People interact with others from different civilizations at a much higher rate than ever before in history. According to Huntington, this increase number of interactions also intensifies “civilization consciousness” and the awareness of differences between civilizations (and the similarities within them). Further, the economic modernization and social change that has accompanied globalization is separating people from their local identities, which in turn is weakening the nation state as a source of a collective political identity.

The Bargaining Range

The bargaining range is the set of deals that both parties prefer to war. The size of the bargaining range increases as the cost of war increases. The bargaining range shifts towards the left or right when one side is much more likely to when the war than the other side. In other words, relative military power influences who gets how much, but not necessarily whether states fight or not. We’ll work through a few examples below to show why this is below.

How to Visualize the Bargaining Range


It’s a lot easier to wrap your head around the bargaining range if you visualize it. So, let’s imagine that there are two countries fighting—Country A and Country B—over some territory. Let’s assume that the value of this territory is “100,” that both countries have a 50% chance of winning the war, and that their cost of fighting is “20” each. So, how do we visualize the bargaining range for this example?

Step 1: Draw a number line, from 0 to 100, representing the amount going to Country A, and locate Country A’s and Country B’s “ideal points” on this line.

Week 4

A country’s “ideal point” is the division of the “100” that they would most prefer. Unsurprisingly, Country A would prefer if all 100 would go to it, so let’s label that on the line.

Country B would also prefer if it received all 100, but where is that located on this line? Well, for Country B to receive 100, it must be the case that Country A receives 0. So, Country B’s ideal point on this line is at “0.”


Step 2: Calculate Country A’s and Country B’s war value.

A country’s war value is the amount the country can expect to get by going to war. Here’s the general formula for determining a country’s war value:


  • War Value = [Probability of winning] x [Value of what is being fought over] – [costs of war]

So, with our example, what is country A’s and country B’s war value?

  • A’s War Value = (0.5 x 100) – 20 = 30.

  • B’s War Value = (0.5 x 100) – 20 = 30.

Step 3: Locate Country A & Country B’s war value on the number line.

We want to figure out all the possible divisions of 100 that Country A will prefer to war. So, since country A can expect “30” by going to war, it should prefer any division of the 100 that gives it at least 30. Let’s put that one the line.


Now, Country B can also expect at least “30” by going to war, but again, how do we visualize this on the line? Well, for a division of the 100 to give Country B 30, it must give Country A 70. So, Country B will prefer any division of the 100 that gives Country A 70 or less. Let’s add that to the line.


Country B’s War Value = [Probability Country B will win] x [Value of what is being fought over] – [Country B’s costs of war]

Step 4: Determine the set of agreements both countries prefer to war. You’ve found the bargaining range! Visually, where the two arrows overlap on the line is the set of agreements both countries prefer to war. So, let’s label the bargaining range.



Week 5: Rationalist Explanations for War 


Course Announcements

  • Paper Meetings Just a reminder that you must meet with me to discuss your paper with me at some point during the quarter. I’ll start holding additional office hours in at the beginning of Week 7 and in Week 9 to come and talk to me about your papers.

Section Objectives 

  1. Rationalist Explanations for War. Bargaining theory tells us that – because war is costly – there should be an agreement that both sides in a dispute prefer to war. So, why are states unable to reach these mutually preferable bargains? By the end of class, students should be able to explain clearly the two major rationalist explanations for war.

  2. Understanding the 2003 Iraq War. The outbreaks of real wars are, unsurprisingly, much messier and more complicated than what our simplified game theoretic models predict. Let’s apply our rationalist explanations for war to the 2003 Iraq War. To what extent do these models shed light on the origins of the conflict? Are there important aspects of the conflict that these models fail to explain?

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Bargaining Range

  • Inefficiency of War

  • Issue Indivisibility

  • Mutual Optimism

  • Private Information

  • War from Commitment Problems

  • Preemptive War

  • Preventive War

  • Costly Peace

  • Deterrence

Rationalist Explanations for War

Why do states go to war? This question is not only one of the central questions in the international relations discipline. It is also one of grave normative importance. It’s hard to quantify the amount of human suffering that war causes. Not only are combatant and civilian lives during war, there are millions who are injured, displaced from their homes, left impoverished, and face deadly disease. In fact, war is so costly that it has led some to suggest that asking who won a given war is like asking who won the San Francisco earthquake –that in wars, there is no victory but only varying degrees of defeat (Waltz 1959).

Given this extraordinary costs of war, it’s puzzling why it occurs in the first place. (Can you explain succinctly why war is puzzling? Why aren’t “conflicting preferences” enough to explain war?) States disagree on policies and other issues all the time, but to explain war, we need to explain why states were not able to reach a deal that both states prefer fighting. Since war is costly, it is also inefficient. Importantly, this does not mean that war is necessarily “irrational.” Yes, it’s costly and inefficient, but there are rational (as well as irrational) reasons why states are unable to reach an agreement, they both mutually prefer to war.

So, why do states sometimes not reach one of the deals in the bargaining range? In section, we covered two the primary rationalist explanations for war. Detailed notes on these explanations, as well as notes on issue indivisibility and mutual optimism, can be found under the additional resources tab.

Here are some short summaries of each of explanations we have covered in this class:

  • Issue Indivisibility. Issues must be perfectly divisible for there to always exist a range of deals that both states prefer to war. But what if issues aren’t perfectly divisible? If you cannot divide up the issue or doing so would cause the issue to lose its value, then there might not exist a range of feasible deals that both sides prefer to war. In other words, even though there is a hypothetical bargaining range, the feasible deals do not lay within this range.

    Is it reasonable to think that issues are not perfectly divisible? At first cut, yes. For example, Jerusalem is a city of enormous importance to a number of different religions. Trying to split the territory up would likely diminish the value of the city itself. However, it is misleading to say that it is an “all or nothing” situation. Why couldn’t compensate each other either monetarily or by granting them more favorable deals on a wide arrange of other issues? Moreover, we must also remember that issues may appear indivisible when they are not since states face a strategic incentive to act as if an issue is indivisible in hopes that the other side would fully capitulate

  • Mutual Optimism. We say that two states are “mutually optimistic” if both believe that they have greater than a 50% chance of winning. When both states believe they are likely to win the war, the perceived range of deals both prefer to fighting shrinks (i.e. the bargaining range shrinks) or may not even exist.

    So, where does mutual optimism come from? How can two states both think they will probably win a war? Here, states are behaving irrationally. This irrationality may arise either because human rationality is “bounded” (i.e. these problems are really hard and people have cognitive limitations) or because they have motivated bias (i.e. they tend to interpret, prefer, or recall information in a way that confirms their beliefs and do not really consider information that contradicts it).

  • Private Information & the Incentive to Misrepresent. The third source of bargaining failure arises when there is both private information and a strategic incentive to misrepresent that information. Here, leaders know their own capabilities, how costly war would be, and their resolve on an issue, but to be able to locate a deal in the bargaining range, each side needs to figure out their opponent’s value of these parameters. In other words, to be able to define the bargaining range, states need to know their relative capabilities, their relative costs, etc.

    Seems like a simple problem to solve, right? Given that war is costly, shouldn’t both sides just tell each other their value for war so that they can find a deal that will allow them to avoid war? Well, it turns out each state faces a strategic incentive to “bluff”—that is, to pretend their “war value” is higher than it is—in order to get a better deal from bargaining. And since both states know that the other faces these incentives, it is difficult for leaders to clarify their relative resolve, which could allow them to find a deal in the bargaining range. This communication failure generates a real risk of war.

  • War from Commitment Problems: The fourth source of bargaining failure occurs when cannot commit to abide by the terms of the agreement. We’ll consider three broad types of explanations here: war in response to changing power, war in response to first strike advantages, and a “costly peace.”

    • Preventive War. If one state is expected to have much more power in the future (as a result of high economic growth rate, pursuit of nuclear weapons, etc.), it might be difficult for it and its opponent to avoid war at present. This is not because the two states are unable to find an agreement that both prefer to war now or in the future, but rather because the state whose relative power is expected to decline faces incentives to engage in war now to prevent, or significantly delay, its adversary’s ascent to power in the future. This dilemma is a commitment problem in the sense that if the rising power could credibly commit not to revise the current deal that both states could agree to at some point in the future, then war could be avoided.

    • Preemptive War. Preemptive war occurs when there are very large first strike advantages. In other words, whoever strikes first will have a much higher chance of winning the war than they would if the both attacked at the same time. Here, bargaining breaks down because each side is confident that it can get a better payoff by attacking first than by accepting a deal through negotiation. Neither side can credibly commit to not trying to capitalize on the first strike advantages. To put it differently, when both states know there are first strike advantages to attacking first, they know that they can secure themselves a more favorable deal if they can squeeze in the first strike than they can secure themselves in any of the deals in the bargaining range where they could commit not to attack.

      Importantly, while both prevention and preemption arise from states being unable to make credible commitments not to use their military power, there is a significant difference in timing. Preemption is a response to an imminent threat when there is an already existing first-strike advantage. Prevention is a response to anticipated changes in the distribution of power that might result in an increased threat sometime in the future. Empirically, it’s questionable whether there are ever such large first strike advantages that attacking first would significantly change the probability of which side wins the war.

    • Costly Peace. The idea behind “costly peace” is that sustaining the cost of containing a threat for a long time may be very large. It may be cheaper to incur the cost of war now if the state is reasonably certain that war will eliminate the threat. This is a commitment problem in the sense that war could be avoided if the state causing the costly containment could credibly commit to not take territory/enact certain policies/etc. if the first state were to spend less on arms.

Bargaining Theory & the 2003 Iraq War

Week 5

Week 6: Politics of Nuclear Deterrence

Course Announcements


  • ​Paper Meetings Just a reminder that you must meet with me to discuss your paper with me at some point during the quarter. Next week, I’ll have office hours from 11am-1pm on Tuesday, and from 2-5pm on Wednesday. I’ll also have extended office hours for the next few weeks as well.

  • Midterm Grades Just so you know, the average score on the exam was a 73, which we were really happy with. Overall, the scores ranged from the low 50s to the low 90s, with most people scoring somewhere in the high 60s or low 70s. If you have any questions about the midterm, please don’t hesitate to come and talk to me!

Section Objectives

  1. How to Tackle the Paper. Let’s take a few moments to go over what we expect from you next week in your outline, how to structure your introduction, and some successful strategies for crafting your arguments for both the war prompt and the institutions prompt.

  2. Nuclear Modernization Debate. In class, we’ve taught you a pretty stylized and theoretical version of nuclear politics. Let’s apply our knowledge of nuclear deterrence theory to a contentious nuclear policy issue in the United States. To what extent does deterrence theory and its limitations bear insight into the nuclear modernization debate?

Key Term and Concepts

  • Brinkmanship

  • Mutually-Assured Destruction (MAD)

  • Requirements of Nuclear Deterrence

  • Second-strike capabilities

  • Nuclear Proliferation

  • Effects of Nuclear Weapons on:

    • Arms Racing

    • Alliance Politics

Section Quiz

  1. What are two models that Allison (1969) presents in “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis” aside from the rational unitary actor model?

    • Organizational Processes – Organizations act according to strict, pre-established routines called Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These SOPs limit the number of policy responses the governments considers when deciding which actions to take, and the SOPs can make it difficult for states to adapt to new situations.

    • Bureaucratic Politics – Policy decisions are political outcomes and are the result of “compromise, coalition, competition, and confusion among government officials who see different faces of an issue.”

      Note: Many scholars do not distinguish between these models as Allison does and simply refer to them as a “bureaucratic politics” model


  2. What are the three requirements for deterrence to work?

    • Second-Strike Capability For mutual deterrence to work, each state’s arsenal must be able to survive a first strike by the other state and still be able to wreak unacceptable levels of damage on the initiator.

    • Rational Actors Mutual deterrence also assumes that leaders are minimally rational. In the very least, leaders must care about their own and their country’s survival. The reason is that nuclear deterrence relies on making the possibility of (nuclear) war unacceptably costly. If leaders are willing to accept their own deaths and the annihilation of large parts of their population, leaders may be willing to risk destruction for an issue that is at stake.

    • Nuclear weapons must have a reliable “return address” Each side must be able to reliably very where the attack originated. As FLS explains, deterrence hinges on the expectation that anyone who initiates an attack will face a devastating counterattack. If it were impossible to know where the attack originated, then a potential initiator might think it could escape retaliation.

Strategies for your Final Paper

The outline for your final paper is due on Friday before midnight. For this assignment, you need to write your four-paragraph introduction (which should be about 2-2.5 pages, double-spaced) and then outline the rest of your paper (2-2.5 pages, single-spaced). It might seem weird to write a multiple-paragraph introduction for an 8-10 page paper, but it’s a really useful skill to hone for when you have to write longer paper.

For your introduction in outline, we’d like you to give us as much of your claims, your logic behind those claims, and your evidence (with sources!) as possible. The more you give me, the more I can provide feedback on.

Here’s some advice for how to tackle (and structure) a paper for each of the prompts!


War Prompt – Suggested Framework
In this prompt, your goal is to explain why parties were unable to reach a negotiated settlement that would have prevented war. A good tactic for this paper is to choose which rationalist explanation for war best fits your case, and then supplement that explanation in some way. For instance, are the important features of the cases that are necessary for explaining the war that rationalist explanations miss? Are the features of the case that are puzzling from a purely rationalist perspective?
  • Introduction

    • Par 1: Set up the puzzle, relevant question. Should end with a question along the lines of “why were these states unable to reach an agreement that would have avoided the costs of war?”.

    • Par 2: Outline the rationalist explanation you the best fits your case and explain your argument.

    • Par 3: Overview why the rationalist explanation is insufficient. Explain why these additional features of the case are necessary for understanding the outbreak of the war.

    • Par 4: Road Map. Should outline what you are going to do in the next few parts of your paper. [See example down below]

  • Background puzzle and Rationalist Explanation

    • Background: Overview of war, with focus on the events leading up to the outbreak of war. Who are the relevant actors? What are their interests? (I.e. what are they fighting over?)

      • This should be a very brief section. You can assume that your audience (me) knows the background features of your case, so you don’t want to waste a lot of your space on giving background information.

    • Expand on Puzzle: Given actors, interests -- why no agreement? How costly was the war? What might a preferable agreement look like in this situation? What diplomatic solutions were on the table that were ultimately ruled out?

    • Develop Rationalist Explanation [This should be the bulk of this section of your paper]

      • Explain theory/logic of the rationalist explanation

      • Give evidence and narrative of this explanation fitting your case.

  • Other important features of the case

    • Why are rationalist explanations insufficient and/or what features of the case are puzzling from a rationalist perspective?

    • Develop additional features that are necessary for understanding outbreak of war. OR present argument to explain features that are puzzling or inconsistent with rationalist explanations.

  • Conclusion – Wrap up, summarize key arguments, discuss any implications your argument here may have more broadly.


Institutions Prompt – Suggested Framework:
In this prompt, your goal is to explain (i) what the nature of the strategic problem is, (ii) how the institution intends to generate compliance with its rules, and (iii) whether and to what extent the institutions succeeds.

Let’s start by unpacking the goals of the assignment a bit more.

  1. is asking you to identify what parties’ interests are, why they would like to cooperate, and why they are unable to cooperate in the absence of some a agreement.

  2. is asking you to unpack the mechanisms of the treaty that promotes cooperation. Given actors’ interests and the dilemma described above, what does this institution do that makes states able to cooperate.

  3. is asking you to evaluate the extent to which the institution works. Are there any apparent “successes” or “failures”? What explains the “failures”? Are you sure that the “apparent” success results from the institution and not some other factor? Why is it/is it not attributable to the institution? If it is not attributable to the institution, what other factor explains the apparent success?

Notice that these questions build on each other. For example, if you do not think that the mechanisms the institutions rely on are not sufficient to promote compliance, you’ll probably think any apparent success is not attributable to the international institution.

  • Introduction

    • Par 1: Set up the puzzle, relevant question. Should end with a question.

    • Par 2: Outline argument explaining what the nature of strategic problem is and how institution is designed to address that problem.

    • Par 3: Present your argument evaluating the institution’s (prospects of) success.

    • Par 4: Road Map. Should outline what you are going to do in the next few parts of your paper. [See example down below]

  • Background, Nature of Strategic Problem, Motivate Puzzle

    • Background: Who are the actors and what are their interests?

    • Nature of Strategic Problem: Why do they want to cooperate, and why are they unable to cooperate in the absence of the institution.

    • How does the institution seek to “solve” this problem? Be sure to give your logic and theory?

  • Evaluate the Success (or likelihood of Success) of the Institution. Has this institution succeeded? In what ways? Are there reasons to think that it won’t continue to be successful in the future? Have there been areas where the institution has been more/less successful?

  • Conclusion - Wrap up, summarize key arguments, discuss any implications your argument here may have more broadly.

Important Writing Tips:
  • You should use headings (and subheadings if necessary) to organize your paper into distinction sections. Headings should be bold, Sub-Headings should be italicized.

  • Every section you write should have its own “intro” and “conclusion.” In other words, at the beginning of every section you want to preview what you are going to show in that section. At the end of each section, you should quickly reiterate the main points you have shown and preview what is next (to allow for smooth transitions between text).

  • A good roadmap structures your argument and allows your reader to see both what you are going to argue and how you are going to argue it at the beginning of your paper. A good road map does not simply report the sections that come next in the paper. Here’s an example of a road map I wrote for an essay recently.

    “I divide this paper into five parts. In the next section, I will discuss the logic behind Milner and Kubota’s (2005) claim that the expansion of the selectorate in developing countries causes leaders to adopt free trade policies, and I will show that there is little direct evidence to support these claims. In the third section, I will argue that there are two possible reasons why this result does not hold. First, democratic institutions do not ensure that majority preferences will determine policy selection, and second, there are reasons to suspect that the majority of the population—particularly in developing countries—may prefer protectionism. The fourth section will explain why the evidence Milner and Kubota (2005) present does not assuage these concerns. I will also present alternative research designs that would be better tests for their claims. Finally, I will conclude by reflecting more broadly on the ability of domestic institutions to explain variation in trade policy within countries, across countries, and over time.”

So What? Takeaways from the Nuclear Modernization Debate

In class and in the readings for this week, we’ve presented you a very stylized version of the politics of nuclear weapons. While deterrence theory (and its skeptics) is fundamental for understanding how nuclear weapons have affected international politics, our nuclear modernization debate gave you a snapshot of what a lot of nuclear weapons politics often looks like today. Here are the resources we used for our debate:

An important thing to realize about the nuclear modernization debate is that it combines aspects of both vertical and horizontal proliferation. Vertical proliferation refers to when a country that already has nuclear weapons develops more or more powerful weapons. Horizontal proliferation refers to when a country that did not previously have nuclear weapons develops these weapons for the first time. Often, when we talk about nuclear deterrence theory, we often only think about horizontal proliferation, but this theory and the critiques of it have important implications for both kinds of proliferation.

Here are some of the main takeaways from the debate:

  1. If going through with the current nuclear modernization plan is truly “a choice between replacing them [our nuclear weapons] or losing them” as U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter suggests, nuclear optimists would be pro-modernization. Nuclear optimists, like Waltz, would never choose to give up our nuclear weapons. As deterrence theory tells us, there are a number of advantages to having nuclear weapons:

    • Having nuclear weapons makes territorial conquest against the United States extremely unlikely.

    • With nuclear weapons, the United States is not as dependent on its allies for its security.

    • By having nuclear weapons, the United States can avoid engaging in costly arms races.

  2. While there are some aspects of nuclear modernization that are necessary for maintaining U.S. deterrent capabilities (e.g. updating command and control), there are other aspects of the current plan that are unnecessary from the perspective of deterrence theory. For instance, we do not need to replace our current warheads with more powerful and destructive ones to maintain deterrence. What is necessary for deterrence to kick in is that the United States has secure second-strike capabilities. Increasing the destructive capabilities of our current nukes does nothing to increase or enhance our second-strike capability. Thus, developing more powerful weapons is similar to simply developing more weapons from the perspective of deterrence theory.

  3. Nuclear pessimists would also likely be in favor of updating our current nuclear systems. A big concern for nuclear pessimists, like Sagan, is the risk of nuclear accidents. The risk of these kinds of accidents increases if nuclear facilities are not maintained and are vastly out of date. See the pictures from the first link under “online resources” above to get a sense of what state some of our nuclear facilities, which were built in the late 40s and 50s, are in. However, nuclear pessimists would advocate for continuing to decrease the number of nuclear weapons the United States has since the risk of an accident occurring increases with every additional weapon that the United States has.

  4. It should strike you as puzzling why many people have used arms racing logic (in one way or another) in the nuclear modernization debate. As Professor Fearon pointed out in class and in his memo, nuclear weapons significantly diminishes states’ incentives to engage in arms races. Because states with nuclear weapons no longer need to fear territorial conquest, there should be little strategic pressure to build up both conventional and non-conventional weaponry. However, people on both sides of the debate have in some way linked their positions to arms racing with Russia and China. For instance, many of those who are pro-modernization have pointed out that China and Russia have also been updating their nuclear arsenals and making some of their weapons stronger. On the other hand, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have condemned parts of the modernization plan for provoking an arms race with those countries and increasing the chance of war.


Week 6

Week 7: Domestic Politics & War

Course Announcements

  • Paper Outlines. Intros and outlines for your final paper are due to me by tomorrow at 5:00pm!

  • Midterm Grades Just so you know, the average score on the exam was a 73, which we were really happy with. Overall, the scores ranged from the low 50s to the low 90s, with most people scoring somewhere in the high 60s or low 70s. If you have any questions about the midterm, please don’t hesitate to come and talk to me!

Section Objectives

  1. Understanding the Long Peace. In the past few weeks, we’ve worked our way through a few explanations—we’ve covered some more extensively than others—for the Long Peace. Let’s do a quick recap of both the major and minor explanations for why there has not been any major conflict between the great powers since World War II.

  2. Domestic Politics & War. How can a state’s domestic political system affect its propensity to go to war? In section today, we’ll talk about two major theories that address this question: democratic peace theory and diversionary war. I’ll also give you some more notes on bureaucratic politics. You should think critically about these theories. Are there mechanisms unique to democracy, or could similar arguments be applied to autocratic regimes? How does it jive with the historical record?

Key Term and Concepts

  • The Long Peace

  • Office-seeking motivations

  • Democratic Peace

  • Monadic vs. Dyadic Explanations

  • Normative vs. Institutional Explanations of Democratic Peace

  • Accountability

  • Transparency

  • Audience Costs

  • Costs of Territorial Expansion (for Democracies)

  • Rally effect

  • Diversionary Incentive

  • Interest groups

  • Economic interdependence

The Long Peace

Since 1945, major powers have not gone to war against one another. This absence of major power war—and the long run decline in conflict—is referred to as the “Long Peace.” So, what explains the absence of conflict? Well, it turns out that a lot of things changed in 1945 and many others have been changing since then, so it’s difficult to pin down the precise cause of the Long Peace. But here are the major contenders:

  • Nuclear Weapons – The United States first tested and used its nuclear weapons in 1945, and by 1964 all of the permanent members of the UN Security council had acquired these weapons as well. The introduction and subsequent spread of nuclear weapons, many have argued, has contributed to the absence of war between major powers because the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used imposes an additional cost of war that far exceeds the value of whatever issue is at stake in a dispute. Using the bargaining framework we learned about in weeks 4 and 5, nuclear weapons basically cause states to prefer any division of the good—even one in which it gets nothing—to the possibility of nuclear war since the costs are so high. Moreover, because nuclear powers have used alliances to extend their nuclear umbrella to other countries, conflict between those under the nuclear umbrella has also been deterred.

  • Nationalism + Working Out Boundaries – We learned in the first part of this course that most of inter-state conflict has been driven by nationalist sentiment in some way. As a reminder, a war of nationalism is when a state (or would-be state) fights to get/keep land that their collective political community has a cultural or historical claim to. Once a united political/cultural community has worked out its territorial borders and is ruled by a member of that community, there is little reason to fight with others. Thus, the long peace could be a result of nation-states working out their territorial boundaries. After all, even though conflicting preferences are not sufficient for explaining why two countries go to war, they are necessary.

  • Spread of Democracy – In 1945, there were only 25 democracies in the world compared to 87 in 2010. We’ll go more into the details below, but the “fact” of the democratic peace is that historically, democracies have rarely gone to war against other democracies. There are many theories that try to explain this empirical observation. But, regardless of which theory you find the most compelling, if it is really the case that democracies are less likely to fight one another (and that the empirical fact is not a result of some other factor, like shared interests during the Cold War), the spread of democracy around the world could account for the Long Peace.

  • Economic Interdependence – When countries engage in trade, they increase the opportunity costs of war. In other words, the countries not only have to pay the material costs of war, they also have to give up all the potential gains from trade since countries at war typically do not trade with one another. Thus, global economic integration – which has increased dramatically since the end of WWII and was largely facilitated by international organizations like the GATT and WTO – could be behind the Long Peace.

  • Polarity – Scholars in the traditional “Realist” camp in international relations used to theorize about how the number of super powers in the system affected the propensity for war. In a classic statement, Waltz argued that bipolarity (i.e. when there are two superpowers) is much more stable than unipolarity. In particular, Waltz argued that balancing was easier under bipolarity (i.e. knowing with whom to ally with against whom) and more importantly, alliances were by and large less consequential. If one country “defected” to the other side and betrayed their allies, the balance of power will still be relatively stable. So, many contribute the lack of major power war during the Cold War to bipolarity. However, this argument encounters some trouble with explaining the persistence of the Long Peace after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some prominent realists actually predicted that the post-Cold War era would see the break up of NATO and return to great power conflict in Europe.

Domestic Political Explanations for War

Week 7


Week 8: Rise of China, Failed States & Civil War

Course Announcements

  • Paper Outlines It’s taking me a little longer than anticipated to give you all feedback on your outlines, and I apologize for that. While I had hoped I would be able to get the outlines back to you today, I will get them back to you on Saturday. For those of you who arranged to come to my office hours tomorrow, I will make sure that I will have your outline ready to talk about. If you are planning on coming to office hours and haven’t told me, please let me know.

Section Objectives

  1. Rise of China While policymakers tend to disagree on a lot of things on international politics, most cite the rise of China as one of the (if not the) most pressing foreign policy challenges for the United States in the 21st century. So, why are people so concerned about the rise of China?

  2. Failed States and Civil War Since the end of WWII, the number of ongoing civil wars in the world have been increasing—even though interstate wars have become increasingly rare. Part of the reason for this trend is that civil wars are exceedingly difficult to end (why?). What problems do failed states and civil war create for the international system? How should states deal with these problems?

Key Term and Concepts

  • Thucydides’ Trap

  • Regional Hegemony

  • Nationalism in China

  • Taiwan Issue

  • Containment

  • Engagement

  • Democracy Promotion

  • Failed States

  • Civil War

  • Insurgency

  • Weak Governance

  • Ethnic Fractionalization

  • Neotrusteeship

  • Barriers to Negotiation in Civil War

Rise of China vs. Failed States Debate

Week 8

Week 9: Protectionism and International Trade Preferences

Course Announcements

  • Final Papers. Just a reminder that your final papers are due next week on Thursday, December 8th at 5:00pm. You can submit your final papers to me via email.

  • Do not cite my website! This has come up in a few one-on-one meetings, but it’s worth announcing to everyone. Please avoid citing my website in your final papers. It’s not a proper academic source. Plus, all of my materials are based on the content of lectures, which you are free to cite, and the reading assignments!

  • Next week. Next week is our last section together! Right now, it looks like we will end up skipping the material on international finance. So, our tentative plan for next week is to spend some time covering a few remaining things from trade and discussing international environmental cooperation. But of course, I’ll send an email on Monday afternoon to let you know the exact plan!

Section Objectives

  1. The Puzzle of Protectionism What exactly do we mean by protectionism, and why do economists find it so puzzling? Let’s review some of the key terminology and concepts so we can understand the classical argument in favor of free trade. By the end of class, students should be able to explain why protectionism is Pareto inefficient.

  2. Trade Models & Trade Preferences Today, we will cover two main models of trade—the Hecksher Ohlin and Ricardo Viner—and implications for people’s preferences for or against free trade. What assumptions do these trade models make, and why do they matter? What are the limitations to these models?

Key Term and Concepts

  • Globalization

  • Mercantilism

  • Natural Resource Wealth

  • Neocolonialism

  • Productivity

  • Import-Substitution Industrialization

  • Export-Oriented Industrialization

  • Comparative vs. Absolute Advantage

  • Protectionism

  • Tariffs, quotas, and other non-tariff barriers to trade

  • Hecksher-Ohlin Trade Model

  • Stolper-Samuelson Theorem

  • Ricardo Viner Trade Model

  • Economies of Scale

  • Intra-industry Trade

  • Trade and Polarization

Week 9

Section Quiz

  1. What is globalization, and how might it explain the long peace?

    Globalization refers to the massive increase in economic and cultural transactions between countries over time. By increasing levels of trade and capital flows, globalization increases the opportunity costs of war, which may reduce the likelihood of war by increasing the bargaining range. Importantly, you should understand that globalization is the result of the political choices states have made and the international institutions that states have designed. So, even though the industrial and scientific revolutions are preconditions for globalization, globalization could stop or change in some way in the future.

  2. Why are some countries rich and other countries poor, according to Professor Fearon?

    Professor Fearon argues that differences in productivity, which is a result of a combination of physical and human capital, explains why some countries are which and others are poor. To a certain extent you can transfer machines and education to other countries to get them to grow fast, but we don’t really understand what the “know how” part is and how it develops. Also, it’s important to remember that for these transfers to work, states have to have a good policy environment (i.e. property rights and competitive markets). Three largely discredited explanations include mercantilism, possession of natural resources, and neocolonialism.

Trade Basics Worksheet 

Week 10

Week 10: Wrapping Up

Course Announcements

  • Final Exam. Just a reminder that our final exam will be on Thursday at 8:30am in Lanthrop. The final will be cumulative, with an emphasis on the material after the midterm. There will be 30 T/F questions, 4 out of 6 ID questions, and 3 essay questions.

  • Review Sessions. The TAs will be holding two final review sessions. One on Sunday evening and another on Monday evening. Once we have the exact room and times nailed down, we will make an announcement on Canvas. A final review sheet will also be posted on Canvas.

Section Objectives

  1. Collective Action Problems Let’s review the basic features of collective actions problems, particularly in the context of trade and environmental cooperation. Why is cooperation difficult to sustain, how can it be done, and what factors make cooperation more or less likely?

  2. Kyoto vs. Montreal Protocol. We’ll walk through some of the main arguments that Sunstein makes about the Kyoto and Montreal Protocol. Although he doesn’t use some of our game theoretic terms we’ve discussed this quarter, we can make sense of his arguments using these tools. Why wasn’t cooperation on the Montreal Protocol a typical PD for the United States? What about on the Kyoto Protocol?

Key Term and Concepts

  • Optimal vs. Suboptimal Protectionism

  • 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA)

  • GATT and WTO

  • Collective Action Problem

  • Public Good

  • Free Rider Problem

  • Externalities

  • Coasian Bargain

  • Factors affecting Environmental Cooperation:

    • Number of Parties

    • Shadow of the Future

    • Costs of Mitigation vs. Adaption

  • Montreal Protocol

  • Kyoto Protocol

Section Quiz

  1. What is Most Favored Nation, and how does it promote free trade among many different countries?

    MFN is a prominent feature of the GATT and WTO. Under MFN, states agree to extend the lowest tariff or other trade barrier policit to all parties of the treaty, not just one particular state. Thus, all members of the treaty have the same benefits as the “most favored nation.” MFN has helped promote free trade because it simplifies trade negotiations among many parties, and it is important for formalizing the norm of reciprocity in trade.

  2. Why is the president more likely to be pro-free trade than Congress?

    The President has a larger constituency than any particular Congressman, so in general presidents should be less responsive to particularistic interests. Because the president is elected by citizens across the country, he has an incentive to be most responsive to the largest groups of interests, which in America is generally pro-free trade (Consumers and exporting firms, in particular). Think of this argument in terms of the RTAA. Congressmen’s incentive to respond to the more particularistic interests of comparatively disadvantaged, but politically organized industries in their districts contributed largely to the logrolling of protectionism in the Smoot-Hawley tariff that greatly contributed to the Great Depression. Because congressmen knew that they had an incentive to respond to these organized political interests to the disadvantage of the nation as a whole, they delegated their authority to the president to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements.

Recap: Collective Action Problems

Collective actions problems are commitment problems that have a structure similar to the prisoner’s dilemma. However, we usually use the term “collective action” problem to refer specifically to commitment problems relating to the provision of public goods. Can anyone tell me what a public good is?

A public good is one which is nonexcludable and nonrival in consumption. Non-excludable means that if the good is provided, you cannot prevent everyone from enjoying it. Nonrival means that one person enjoying the public good does not diminish the value of the public good for other people. Because people can enjoy a public good regardless of whether or not they contribute to the public good, there is an incentive to free ride on the efforts of others. The problem is that if everyone acts on this incentive, the public good will not be provided and everyone will be worse off (i.e. a Pareto inefficient outcome).

So, in what ways can we think of trade protectionism as a result of the incentive to free ride? We can think of lobbying for free trade as a public good, in the sense that – as consumers – all people would be better off by the cheaper prices free trade provides. However, lobbying (or contributing to lobbying efforts) takes times and can be costly. So, while everyone would be better off if there was a large lobbying effort that would be strong enough to prevent trade protectionism, people have an incentive to free fried on the efforts of others. In other words, individually a person would be better off getting the free trade (and benefit from the lobbying of others), but not have to contribute to cover the costs of lobbying.

This may strike you as puzzling, however. After all, shouldn’t the domestic groups that benefit from trade protectionism (i.e. the “losers” from trade that we talked about last week) also have a free rider problem? For instance, if we’re using the Ricardo-Viner model, wouldn’t everyone in an import-competing industry benefit from trade protectionism but want to avoid the costs of lobbying efforts? The answer to these questions is “yes,” but it is important to realize that the severity of a collective action problem depends on number of actors and the intensity of their preferences. In general, the incentive to free ride is smaller when there are fewer actors, and it is easier to monitor/police the actions of others in smaller groups. Therefore, small groups can more easily overcome collective action problems than large groups. Moreover, in the case of trade protectionism, the “losers” from free trade generally have a more intense preference against free trade than consumers have in favor of it. In the opening of its chapter on trade, FLS describes the use of protectionism to protect the sugar industry. They suggest that this protectionism costs the 300 million or so American consumers and taxpayers about $2.3 billion a year. But the per-person burden of this program is small: about $7.67 per person. So, the person who is facing large pay cuts or even losing their job as a result for free trade has a greater incentive to mobilize against free trade than the average consumer has to mobilize in its favor. Thus, it is easier for the relatively smaller group of firms or worker’s unions to mobilize against free trade than it is for consumers to overcome their collective action problem.

It’s worth noting what the strategic problem facing trade cooperation is at the international level. In purely economic terms (or at least, according to the classical arguments for free trade), cooperating on free trade is NOT a PD-style commitment problem. Most economists would argue that it is in a state’s economic interest to refrain from putting up trade barriers, regardless of what other countries do. (This argument applies to sub-optimal protectionism, of course. There are a few, very specific circumstances in which protectionism can be optimal economically). This is because a state raising protectionist barriers against foreign exporters always hurts its own consumers by denying them access to cheaper foreign goods, even though protectionism can shield those hurt by free trade. So, if countries only factored in their economic interests, their dominant strategy would be to cooperate, which is the opposite of what happens in a commitment problem.

So, to be clear, cooperation on international trade is difficult because states may have political incentives to raise protectionist barriers. Because the losers of free trade are more able to mobilize politically, countries have incentives to respond to their needs over the economic benefits that free trade offers consumers. With these political incentives factored in, cooperation on trade at international level can resemble a prisoner’s dilemma. Make sure you understand how international agreements are designed to encourage states not to respond to domestic political interests against free trade.

Tale of Two Protocols: Kyoto Protocol vs. Montreal Protocol (Sunstein)

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The Montreal Protocol, which sought to combat depletion of the ozone layer by restricting CFC emissions, was astoundingly successful. The United States and most other countries not only signed on to the Protocol, they also complied with its terms. The ozone layer is expected to repair itself by 2050. The Kyoto Protocol, on the other hand, was devastatingly unsuccessful. The United States withdrew from the protocol, and while many others stayed on, they did not comply with its terms. Plus, it didn’t include restrictions for many developing countries, like China and India. Global temperatures are still expected to rise more than 2 degrees by 2100.

So, why did these protocols have such dramatically different outcomes? We can understand it in terms of the incentive structures of cooperation and defection for each of the issues. More specifically, we’ll consider how technology, time horizons, and the international agreements themselves led success in one case and failure in the other. Importantly, we’ll consider this outcome through the perspective of the United States.

Let’s write a general framework for understanding these incentive structures. You don’t need to know this, but it’s useful for trying to make sense of why these protocols had two different fates

Montreal Protocol
We’ve talked about how environmental cooperation is a prisoner’s dilemma, but a primary reason why the Montreal Protocol was successful is that it was different from a PD due to natural changes in technology and how immediate the effects of ozone depletion were. According to Sunstein, the United States had an incentive to cooperate due to its domestic cost-benefit analysis, regardless of what everyone else did.

Here are the main factors that changed the incentive structure of cooperation away from a PD:

  • Mitigation costs were relatively low. U.S. firms were able to find inexpensive substitutes to CFCs.

  • U.S. firms, like DuPont, faced an additional economic benefit from cooperation if other states reduced CFCs as well. These firms would have a competitive edge on the world market.

  • The costs of noncooperation (or in other words, the benefits of cooperating) were immediate. Problems of acid rain and, most prominently, skin cancer were immediately affecting people. So, it didn’t matter if people had short time horizons or a high discount rate because ozone depletion was affecting them now.

  • Finally, because it was pretty cheap for U.S. firms to switch and the benefits of global cooperation were large and proximate, the United States also incentivized other states to cooperate as well. Not only did the United States threaten trade sanctions against noncompliers, it also agreed to the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (MLF) to help developing countries reach CFC reduction goals.

Kyoto Protocol

Like a standard PD, Sunstein argues that the United States did not have an incentive to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, regardless of what everyone else did. (Remember, defecting is a dominant strategy).

Here are some of the main factors that “doomed” the Kyoto Protocol:

  • Mitigation costs were high. Alternative energy sources at the time were still relatively new and expensive, so U.S. firms would have to pay a large price to make the switch.

  • Beyond the costs of switching to greener technology, the United Sates would have imposed additional economic costs on domestic industries and consumers if other states did not cooperate. Firms would lose a competitive edge on the international market if other states did not comply.

  • The present costs of dealing with climate change (costs of noncooperation) are low. Sea level rise and other effects of climate change will be a much larger problem in the future than what they are right now. So, if states’ discount rates are not sufficiently low, they would not be able to sustain cooperation in a repeated PD.


Although these factors It turns out that there was one more, particularly fatal flaw of the Kyoto Protocol that stemmed from the agreement itself.  A fatal flaw of the Kyoto Protocol is that it did not go far enough to make a difference (or create enough benefits) in carbon emissions, even though it would be costly to implement.  It did not set out to reduce enough carbon emissions to slow global temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. So, complying with Kyoto would have imposed large costs and created few benefits. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol itself may have transformed the problem of cooperation from an already bad one (a PD) to an even worse one. Instead of (Cooperate, Cooperate) being better than (Defect, Defect), it was actually worse. So, strategies of conditional cooperation like TFT could not work.

More broadly this is a difficult problem for cooperation on climate change. Importantly, while Sunstein’s argument is compelling (but remember, he doesn’t actually use the GT terms we’ve used here), there are also many bargaining problems about who should bear the cost of environmental cooperation. So, the lack of success on climate change initiatives (so far) could be due to Sunstein’s story, the bargaining problem, or some combination of both.

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