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Banks-McKelvey Memorial Lecture

Tuesday, June 4, 2024
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Baxter Lecture Hall
Local Politics in Nations and Empires
Roger Myerson, David L. Pearson Distinguished Service Professor of Global Conflict Studies in the Harris School of Public Policy, Griffin Department of Economics, University of Chicago,
  • Public Event

Successful states maintain a functional relationship between local politics and national politics. Property rights have depended on recognition by local communities since before any states existed. To maintain unity in an extensive domain, a state needs a cadre of agents (mandarins) who expect national leaders to reward them for serving the state above any local connections. But investments require locally rooted investors with confidence in the state's protection, so a stable prosperous state must earn the trust of local elites (gentry). Local and national leadership can be aligned in two fundamentally different ways: by top-down influence of national leaders in local politics, or by bottom-up influence of local leaders in national politics. Top-down influence is dominant in successful autocratic states. In successful democracies, national leaders need bottom-up approval from local groups throughout the nation, and local leaders who perform well can become competitive candidates for national leadership. International assistance for democratic development can fail when local politics is neglected.

Roger Myerson is the David L. Pearson Distinguished Service Professor of Global Conflict Studies in the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. Among his many significant accomplishments, Myerson was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2007 for his contributions to mechanism design theory, which analyzes rules for coordinating economic agents efficiently when they have different information and difficulty trusting each other.

This event is part of the Banks-McKelvey Memorial Lecture series, which honors the research and teaching of two colleagues who made seminal contributions to political economy. Jeffrey S. Banks was a 1986 Caltech PhD who, after a stellar career at University of Rochester, returned to Caltech in 1997. He made important contributions to game theory and the politics of voting. He was a fantastic teacher and, in the few years he was teaching at Caltech, trained some of our best students. Richard D. McKelvey (Banks' advisor) was a pioneer in just about every field of political science, including developing statistical methods for analyzing voting patterns, mathematical models of voting participation, and key contributions to game theory that spanned computer and social sciences. He was a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. During his years at Caltech (1979-2001), he too was a celebrated teacher. We lost both of them prematurely.

The Banks-McKelvey Memorial Lecture series brings important figures in the social sciences to campus to energize the Caltech community to address new and important questions in the social sciences. The series is made possible by a gift of endowment from Howard E. Jessen (BS '46).

For more information, please contact Letty Diaz by phone at 626-395-1255 or by email at [email protected].