• Offered by School of Politics and International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Areas of interest Political Sciences, Politics
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Thiago Nascimento da Silva
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

Similar to economists' portrayal of individuals making choices in the private market, political scientists can represent political agents as self-interested rational maximizers when making choices in the public market. This approach is usually called public choice, i.e., the use of economic tools in political science research. Building on the integration of rational choice theory, formal models, and statistical analyses, this course is a comprehensive overview of public choice theory and the important empirical contributions of the field to our understanding of diverse political phenomena---e.g., democratic decision-making, state formation and capacity, collective action, public goods and distributive politics, voting methods and electoral systems, political behavior, coalition governance, and interstate conflicts. Among other things, we will learn: 1. the extent to which the political realm differs from the economic; 2. the relation between individual self-interest and collective welfare, and; 3. how the motivations of individuals affect the outcome of their collective decision-making under different political institutions.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. identify and debate the assumptions and limitations of public choice theory applied to political science research;
  2. use the principles of public choice theory to enhance our understanding of diverse political phenomena---e.g., democratic decision-making, state formation and capacity, collective action, public goods, voting methods and electoral systems, how political institutions constrain individual and group behaviors, among others; and
  3. develop the ability to think and write coherently, logically, and creatively about public choice and politics in the academic style associated with the discipline.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Class Participation (10) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Four assignments (500 words each) (20) [LO 1,2,3]
  3. Research Paper (2000-2500 words) (30) [LO 1,2,3]
  4. Final Exam (3 hours) (40) [LO 1,2,3]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures, and 12 hours of tutorials; and

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed POLS1002, or with permission of the convenor.

Prescribed Texts

Shepsle, Kenneth A. 2010. Analyzing Politics. London: W. W. Norton. [Second Edition.]

Preliminary Reading

  • Riker, William H. 1988. Liberalism against populism. Long Grove: Waveband Press. [Reissued Edition.]
  • Johnson, David B. 1991. Public Choice: An Introduction to the new political economy. London: WCB/McGraw-Hill.
  • Hindmoor, Andrew. 2006. Rational Choice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Butler, Eamonn. 2012. Public Choice: A Primer. London: Institute of Economic Affairs.
  • Elster, Jon. 2015. Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Revised Edition.]


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $5700
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7293 25 Jul 2022 01 Aug 2022 31 Aug 2022 28 Oct 2022 In Person View

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