Courses offered by Jenna Bednar:

(UM registered students will find more information about current courses, including the syllabus, at the CourseTools website)


PS326: American State Government
State governments are alternatively ignored as irrelevant, squeezed fiscally by the federal government, or championed as policy laboratories and the providers of government tailored to fit local needs. The American union began as a compact of independent states under the Articles of Confederation, but has evolved to the point where the states often seem to be no more than administrative levels of government. No education in the American government is complete without a serious examination of its vertical construction. What is the relevance of state government to the American political system? How does federalism affect our economy, our domestic policy, our foreign affairs? And how do we voters control a government divided vertically? In the second half of the course we will examine a dozen policy areas including welfare, education, crime & policing, and the environment.

PS497: Comparative Constitutional Design
Constitutions define the rules by which we are governed.   When we write our constitution, we make a contract with one another and with our future selves; we define possibilities and we close doors.   This course takes an interest-based approach to the study of constitution-building: through theory and comparisons of constitutional experiences we will examine how different institutional structures create winners and losers in society, and the consequence of choices made by constitutional founders for the robustness of their polity.   In our first several weeks we will examine institutional options available when designing a government.   We then examine how practice may differ from the written document, and how constitutions are interpreted. We will study constitutional change, thinking about the advantages of meeting the fluctuating needs of society, but also its drawback: the importance of consistency, reliability, and legitimacy. We will also examine structural methods for managing ethnic conflict. We will devote two weeks to the writing of constitutions in distinct contexts, including constitutions that emerge after domestic conflict. Throughout the course, we will consider the role of courts, of legislatures, and of peoples as interpreters and legitimizers of the constitutional document.   Our final meeting is evaluative: we ask what makes a constitution good.



PS626: Foundations of Institutional Analysis
Institutions---from formal mechanisms like separation of powers to informal ones such as culture---create an incentive environment that affects our political decisions. In this course we will think about the function and design of institutions and their effect on individual and mass behavior. We will consider institutions as information providers, focal points, sanctioning devices, and veto gates. We will study classic problems such as institutional resolutions to collective action problems and the creation of stability through conflict. We then turn to dynamic problems such as institutional evolution, path dependence, and institutions as complex adaptive systems. We will think about institutional interdependence and the consequence of institutional imperfection. Our readings will include the work of Douglass North, Thomas Schelling, Jack Knight, Itai Sened, Randy Calvert, Bob Axelrod, Kenneth Shepsle, Jim March, Elinor Ostrom, Barry Weingast, George Tsebelis, Jon Elster, Robert Putnam, and James Madison. This couse is available for subfield credit in American, comparative, or methodology.

PS632: The Politics of Federalism
The economic interest in federalism concerns efficiency: what is the optimal distribution of powers between state and federal governments?   How do we reduce the effects of negative externalities while encouraging positive ones?   How centralized or decentralized should the government be?   Who should collect taxes, and what taxes should they collect?   Who spends?   On what?  
By contrast, the political science interest in federalism is based on feasibility and stability: does federalism promote domestic peace?   International security?   Can federalism overcome problems of ethnic conflict?   What is the effect of asymmetrical federal bargains?   How do you design institutions to make federalism work?   What is the appropriate role of the court?   Can voters effectively patrol multiple levels of government?   What influence does federalism have on the party system? This course will examine these two literatures to see how they have talked past one another and in what ways they might be encouraged to meet in order to promote a more effective theory of institutional design in federalism.   The course is geared for those interested in American politics, comparative politics (either area studies or interregional), and public policy.

PS681: Introduction to Game Theory

PS688: Cultural Change and Political Change

LAW 627: Analytical Methods for Lawyers--Public Choice and the Law


additional undergraduate courses taught at the University of Iowa:

Politics of the Judicial Process

Comparative Federalism

Introduction to Game Theory (undergraduate)