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The Pandemic as a Complex Collective-Action Problem: Contagion, Recession, Political Decay, and Inequality

This course will address several political and economic dimensions of this global pandemic, using the notion of collective-action problems as an analytical framework. On the economic side, it will consider the COVID-19 recession in terms of both supply and demand elements, with implications on production as well as household, state, and federal finance. On the political side, it will consider how political decay (a deterioration in democratic institutions) relates to the myriad collective-action problems posed by the global pandemic regarding local, regional, national, and global transmission, prevention, treatment, efforts to mitigate the recession, as well as economic, locational, and racial inequities.

Discussion Date: August 6 at 3 p.m. CT
Faculty Member: Bill Ferguson

Meet Professor Ferguson

Bill Ferguson is the Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics at Grinnell College, where he has taught since 1989. He is the author of The Political Economy of Collective Action, Inequality, and Development (Stanford University Press, 2020) and Collective Action and Exchange: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Contemporary Political Economy (Stanford University Press, 2013). Both books advance the proposition that successful development requires resolving underlying collective-action problems. The earlier book begins with micro-level foundations of political economy and ends with macro-level attention to knowledge, distributions of power, institutions, and growth. The latter book extends these macro themes by focusing on how distributions of power shape configurations of institutions and associated types of collective-action problems that condition prospects for achieving functional political and economic development.

Professor Ferguson is past Secretary-Treasurer of the Midwest Economics Association and prior chair and founder of Grinnell’s Policy Studies Concentration. After graduating from Grinnell College in 1975, with a B.A. in history, he worked as a neighborhood community organizer in Seattle Washington until 1982, when he shifted to studying economics, receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1989. His teaching has ranged from institutional political economy, applied game theory, and policy analysis to labor economics, British economic policy, and climate policy. His early publications focused on the wage-productivity gap in the US economy and modeling implicit bargaining power in employment relationships. After 2008, he shifted to institutional political economy and development. While writing his 2013 book, he visited Indiana University’s Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, where he discussed his 2013 book manuscript with the late Elinor Ostrom.

  1. Step 1 Selection
  2. Step 2 Registration
Thursday August 06
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Please register below.
If you want to be entered into the discussion session lottery, please register by 11:59 p.m. CT on Monday, Aug 3. After the lottery cut off, You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.
Event registration summary
The Pandemic as a Complex Collective-Action Problem: