Results from a Prisoner’s Dilemma Simulation–The Oil Game

Today in class, you competed in groups to maximize total profits in a simulation called “the Oil Game.” You represented one of two competing oil producers–Iraz and Sabia–trying to maximize profits selling oil to a net importer of oil–ESYUVI (the names were created using a random letter-generator–I swear!). Most of you recognized very quickly, if not immediately, that the simulation was a modified Prisoner’s Dilemma situation. As I’ll discuss on Friday, in a Prisoner’s Dilemma situation, players acting in an instrumentally rational manner will always choose not to cooperate (i.e., “defect”), because it is a dominant strategy. What makes the situation a dilemma is that the players could do much better were they able to cooperate and trust one another.

oil_game_results.jpeg

The compelling logic of the prisoner’s dilemma, along with some strong empirical evidence, is used by realists to support their arguments regarding the nature of interaction in the international world. Liberals, on the other hand, argue that there is much more cooperation in the world than realists would predict. Thus, despite the structure of the prisoner’s dilemma, players are able to cooperate in international politics. What factors do you think make cooperation more likely? Less likely? Why?

The results from our simulation today are in graphical form above. You’ll note that communication was not allowed for Years 1, 2, and 4; communication was allowed for Year 3, and communication (to decide what to do for Years 5 and 6) was allowed prior to Year 5. The results from this class are consistent with the expectations. I would note the relatively low level of cooperation throughout, rising only initially after the first episode of communication.

PLSC240–Next Blog Assignment

Hello student-bloggers:

Your next blog post will be due on Friday, February 15th at 6:00pm.

The prompt for your post is “The rational choice/political culture debate and [my topic].” Once again, I will emphasize that you have wide latitude to post, and anything will be acceptable as long as it is somehow related to the prompt above. In addition, please take note of the rubric I will be using to grade your blog.  Remember that I will give you a provisional grade as of the mid-term break (this grade will not be factored into your final grade; it is meant to give you an idea of what your blog grade would be at the end of the semester if the character/quality of your posts were to remain the same until the end of the semester).  You can find the rubric in the Assignments folder of Blackboard.

Best of luck,

J.

Mingst and Snyder–Chapter 3 Reading Questions

Morgenthau, Hans–“A Realist Theory of International Politics”
  • Does Morgenthau’s explanation of realist theory focus on any of the levels of analysis in particular? Explain.
  • Morgenthau writes “political realism is aware of the moral significance of political action. It is also aware of the ineluctable tension between the moral command and the requirements of successful political action.” What does he mean by this and why is this important for international relations?
  • How does Morgenthau define political power, and how is it used in internaitonal politics?

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Blog Assignment PLSC240 Introduction to Comparative Politics

The function of your blog will be to select, research, analyze, and contribute knowledge and information on a topic of interest to you (the group will select one topic only) in comparative politics. As we address the theories and principles of comparative politics over the course of the semester, you will post to your blog analyzing how these theories, principles, and ideas apply to your chosen topic. In addition, since this course is called “comparative” politics, I would like you to analyze at least two (and up to four) different countries, one of which should be a developing country. The goal is for the members of your group to learn more about that topic than we could ever hope to cover in class over the course of a single semester. You will have to post your topic of choice (with potential countries), and a brief description, by midnight, Wednesday, January 30th.

My goal is to allow you to be as resourceful, self-initiated and creative as possible. These are your blogs and you will ultimately be responsible for the nature of the posts. I will guide you, but will allow much latitude in what you decide to post and how you use this assignment to express yourself and demonstrate to me how much you are learning about a particular topic. I want us to build a learning environment and community together, which means that we will all be involved in this enterprise. To make an analogy, it would be as if I were to instruct you to build an apartment building with X number of units on a particular plot of land, and pretty much let you loose to create your vision. I will guide you along the way, for certain, but will let you be the ultimate owner of the finished product. So your first step is to select a topic.

As you may have noticed we have already addressed some topics in comparative politics that may be of interest to you. To help you begin to narrow down your choice of topic, use some of the resources that you already have available to you. First, go to my blog and search for PLSC240, and you’ll see a series of posts with potential topics/ideas. Another immediate source is the textbook. For example, browse the entries in the index of O’Neil’s Essentials.

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Blog Assignment–PLSC 250-Introduction to International Relations

The function of your blog will be to select, research, analyze, and contribute knowledge and information on a topic of interest to you (the group will select one topic only) in international relations. As we address the theories and principles of international relations over the course of the semester, you will post to your blog analyzing how these theories, principles, and ideas apply to your chosen topic. The goal is for your group to learn more about that topic than we could ever hope to cover in class over the course of a single semester. You will have to post your topic of choice, and a brief description of the topic, by midnight, Sunday, January 27th.

There is a myriad of topics in international relations that may be of interest to you. To help you begin to narrow down your choice of topic, go to the index of Mingst’s Essentials, and browse the list of entries.

Continue reading “Blog Assignment–PLSC 250-Introduction to International Relations”

How do you Affect International Relations in your Daily Life?

In Mingst’s first chapter, she asks “How does international relations affect you in your daily life?” More potentially meaningful information may be garnered by turning that question over on its head: “how do you affect international relations in your daily life?” Are you thinking of buying a new cell phone? What will you do with your old one? You may want to think twice about your decision, as it could have an effect on people thousands of miles away.

…did you know that throwing your old cell phone in the garbage helps support civil war in central Africa, driving endangered gorillas closer to extinction in the process? A little explanation: A used cell phone’s value lies mainly in small amounts of minerals in its circuits — gold, nickel and especially tantalum, a high-melting-point metal sometimes referred to as coltan. Like something from a Clive Cussler thriller, tantalum is vital to manufacturing cell phones and many other electronic devices, but 80 percent of the world’s reserves are in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). There, it is mined under frequently appalling conditions and fought over during the DRC’s ongoing civil and international wars. Tantalum-mining revenues help fuel these wars, along with the associated destruction of human lives and gorilla habitat.

Tantalum and other minerals command a premium, so cell-phone manufacturers have turned to recycling because it’s easier (and more ethical) than dealing with warlords — or commodities brokers who buy from them. An entire tantalum-recycling economy has sprung up, and now accounts for 20 to 25 percent of manufacturing input per year.

In addition, cell phones and their electronic cousins may also contain potentially toxic compounds of lead and arsenic, so it behooves us to keep them from winding up in landfills and afterward, the water supply.

Here are some of the ways that you can keep your old phone’s minerals and plastics in circulation while easing your conscience about making calls using the equivalent of a conflict diamond.

Your next blog entry will be dedicated to documenting either how international relations affects you or how you affect international relations, or both.

Here is a compelling documentary.