Power & Politics in America Midterm (copy)

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Politics (n).

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Politics (n).

The means by which human communities resolve real or apparent conflict, violently or otherwise

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What are sources of conflict on Politics?

Differences in interest, ideology, perception, power

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Power (n).

Resources to achieve one’s goals (in the face of opposition)

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What are the consequences of this polarization?

More money spent on campaigns instead of public policy, Mass political violence in U.S., Politics doesn’t suffer from conflict, Politics is conflict

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Positive analysis

Studying the world as it is

  1. Understand origins and consequences of domestic political institutions

  2. Explaining (not justifying or condemning) political behavior & outcomes

  3. Logic and evidence, not just ideology

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Normative analysis

Studying the world as it should be

  1. Do politics match what people want?

  2. Do policies create problems or disagreements?

  3. How is power distributed?

  4. What drives motivation in politics?

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Positive Analysis vs. Normative Analysis

positive analysis: what actual behavior and policies are, about facts

normative analysis: describe what should or ought to be done, a matter of values and opinions

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Criteria for evaluation

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What questions do you want to ask when you encounter a model?

A. Correspondence with reality: 1. What is the correspondence with the model to the world?

B. Insight: 2. Did the analysis of the model teach me something about the world that I didn’t already know?

C. Fragility: 3. Is there something in the world that is missing in my model that will materially change the outcome? (If no, model is good)

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What is “Thin” rationality?

the minimal criteria for rational preferences and choices (Only from material self interest)

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What is “Thicker” rationality?

How people evaluate risk, compare present and future, update beliefs given new information, make choices given cognitive constraints and biases, game theory, prior substantive knowledge

Thinking about context

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Fundamental political problems

1. Coordination

2. Collective action

3. Commitment problems

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Situations in which groups of individuals benefit from synchronizing behavior even when they may disagree about how to do so (Incentives captured in BoTIGC)

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Conflict emerges because of mixed motives of participants

  • From player’s perspective: give what they believe about what the other player is doing, what is my best response?

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Nash equilibrium

a set of strategies that are best responses to each other

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A role for governing institutions

equilibrium selection, aligning expectations

◦ Constitutions and laws

◦ Leadership

◦ Culture

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What are the two roles for governing institutions?

Make (sell, pay) SPNE for private citizens

cultivate long-term reputation for honoring commitments

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Collective action

Situations in which individually rational behavior yields collectively bad results (Incentives captured in prisoner’s dilemma)

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Incentives captured in prisoner’s dilemma

a.) Tragedies of the commons (over-exploiting commonly held resources)

b.) Public goods provision (the free-rider problem)

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The Prisoner’s Dilemma

◦ (Defect, Defect) is a dominant strategy equilibrium

◦ Collectively bad

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Commitment Problems

a situation in which people cannot achieve their goals because of an inability to make credible threats or promises

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when do Commitment Problems occur?

situations where

◦ A’s fear of future exploitation by B keeps A from taking beneficial action

◦ A’s lack of fear of future punishment by B in future leads A to take harmful action

(Incentives captured in some extensive form games)

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What is a Buyer-Seller extensive form game?

A “stateless” market transaction

Backward induction: start at the end of the game

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What is a Subgame perfect Nash Equilibrium (SPNE)?

An equilibrium/ best response with known punishment

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What are the benefits of government? (aka the good)

  • Facilitate solutions to large - scale coordination problems

  • Mitigate collective action problems

  • Reduce commitment problems, enable trade

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What is “the bad” of Government?

  1. Conformity Costs: political losers must line with unappealing collective choices

  2. Agency Loss from perverse incentives: empowering public officials to state collective problems may create perverse incentives

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What is “the ugly” of Government?

  • Inequitable distribution of voice and exist options

  • Inequitable burdens of collective solutions

  • Outright subjugation of part of the population

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The buy-in problem

A situation where people are hesitant to support on or participate in a particular idea, plan, or decision, because they they haven't been adequately involved in the decision-making process or that their concerns and interests have not been considered. To overcome this problem, it's essential to involve people, gather their input, and address their concerns to ensure that they are more likely to support and actively participate in the proposed idea or plan. When individuals feel their voices are heard and their interests are considered, they are more likely to "buy in" and be fully committed to the endeavor.

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Advocates of document (aka constitution) go to States to go to convince to see if will be ratified Articles of Confederation

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On the opposite side, the people who are skeptical, express fear that will give too much power to government and conform cost

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What did the federalist and Anti-federalist agree on?

  • Both wanted a republicanism (accountability)

  • Both wanted representatives Democracy and Separation of Powers

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What is Rationale?

lower conformity costs, higher buy-in

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What are the two Antifederalist complaints?

a. Judiciary and the Supremacy Clause

b. Necessary & Proper Clause

(worried National Government is going to control the states)

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What did the Antifederalist complain about in regards to Individual rights?

No bill of rights

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group of people who assemble in pursuit of their interest instead of the promised common interest

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What were the Antifederalists solutions to Factions?

  1. Community Standards, religion

  2. Small Republics

    (By embodying community standards when they divide into factions will advocate to make people moral) (Idea that fewer factions equals more liberty, because they would be more similar)

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What were the Federalist Solutions to Factions?

  1. Love of Self

    • as a safeguard against tyranny shouldn’t count on the government to make people good but to understand their self love (self-awareness )

  2. Large Republics (Federalist #10)

    • If the government expands will bring more diverse people which will make it harder to create a majority faction to suppress minority (larger Republic can lessen effect)

    • More people = coordination problems

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Small Republic

will have less differences/ more similarities

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Large Republic

more people will create coordination problems and decrease the chances of suppressing the minority group (factions are harder to sustain)

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Apparent Advantages of decentralization

  • closer match of policy to reference (fewer “losers”)

  • Information: awareness of local circumstances

    • But losers may lose more

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Apparent Advantages of centralization

  • might provide goods more efficiently (economies of scale)

  • Reduce free-rider props

  • Potentially greater protection of local minority

    • But might create more losers

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Who favored more centralization?

States with large war debts; mercantile interest; populism-fearing elites

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Who favored less centralization?

residents of small states fearing culture under threat; white southern planter elite

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What was the debate between the Federalist and Antifederalist?

  • Conflict over evaluation of trade offs - Politics

  • Disagreement about institutions invariably reflect disagreement about interest, ideologies, & power

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The Virginia Plan

Madison’s plan (national government, gets to decide if states are doing a bad job and regulate, congress can veto law made by state, if don’t pay taxes will call the army on them)

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What was the politics of compromise surrounding the Constitution?

all actors must be as least as well off as under the articles of confederation

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What were some ambiguities in the constitution?

  • commerce clause (regulate AMONG the states)

  • guarantee clause (gvt guaratnees republic, how do we know what is a republic?)

  • necessary and proper clause

  • McCulloch vs. Maryland (1819)

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How does the 1787 constitution deal with slavery?

punts on it. doesn't mention it by name, but has a 3/5 compromise, a fugitive slave clause, slave trade clause, and the origins of the second amendment were based on wanting slaves not to have guns

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What were the antecedents to Federalism expansion?

  1. Crisis: Foreign & domestic (civil war, world war, international intervention)

  2. Spillover & demand for uniformity (regulatory standards)

foreign and domestic crises, economic integration, cooperative federalism

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What was the unanticipated but critical feature of contemporary federalism?

  1. Regulatory federalism (ex: clean air enforcement - set a policy and let them enforce it)

  2. Fiscal federalism (transfer resources across government (fed to state) (grant transfer)

  3. State noncompliance with national directives

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What were some solutions to the fears surrounding the separation of powers?


filtration principle

indirect elections as an accountability mechanism

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Define Separation of powers

ambition combating ambition

  • Division of power at national level among branches

  • logic: a stable constitution must be self-enforcing (parchment barriers inadequate)

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Historical Antecedents

  1. Colonial Assemblies

  2. Expectation of presidential candidate weakness

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What was the origin of bicameralism?

large states favored population based representation, small states favored state based representation, connecticut compromise melded the two

  • Virginia plan, New Jersey plan, and Connecticut Compromise (Buy-in revised)

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Political Consequences of Separation of Power - related compromises

A. Potential for gridlock

  • opposes changes = nothing accomplish

  • heterogeneity= opposing preferences

  • different constituencies electing two different chambers

B. Malapportionment in the Senate

  • Different voters depending on where they live can have more or less representation

C. Extra representation in the slave states: the 3/5 rule (Senate & House)

  • dehumanizing, wanted number to be higher because allowed for more political representation in the slave holding states

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Bicameralism entrenches power of slave states

1. Virginia in the House

2. Smaller slave states exercise disproportionate power in Senate

3. Combined power in the electoral college IV.

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Does the separation of powers work as advertised?

Restriction/constraints on the completion/execution of action

ex: Impeachment (completion of votes to go to trial)

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Some common critiques specific to the US

  • Money and power in elections and policymaking

  • Voter demobilization and disenfranchisement

  • Gerrymandering

  • Candidate Selection

  • Undemocratic institutions entrench status quo

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What are the embedded assumptions in Madisonian constitutionalism?

1. Gridlock-inducing national institutions

2. Preference diversity

3. Federalism as shared sovereignty

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Best case scenarios: “Fail-Safe” Federalism

1. In the absence of national consensus (State can take political action)

2. In the presence of national consensus

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Four problematic assumptions

1. Expectation of coordination failure (does not anticipate political parties)

2. Expectation that common problems will create consensus

3. Expectation that the national government will be small relative to the states

4. Expectation that interstate heterogeneity will exceed intrastate heterogeneity

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Classifying and measuring democracy and the rule of law

A. Contestation B. Inclusivity C. Caveats

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What is Contestation?

  • elected legislature and cheif executive

  • Multiple political parties

  • Losers leave (alternation in power)

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What is the correlation between money and elections?

the more money a person spends, if they are the challenger, they are more likely to win. However, if an incumbent spends a lot of money, there is a small chance that they will actually affect the outcome of the election all that much.

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What are some scenarios of Caveats?

  • Suffrage criteria tend to ignor cost of voting

  • Federalism and variation within States

    • voting is not fully represented/ to be trusted for Democracy “score”

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“Perils of Presidentialism”

A. Linz’s (1990) argument concerning presidential systems and democratic crises

  • competing claims to represent majority will instead of republicanism

  • Zero-sum nature of presidential elections may contribute to polarization (compared to constructive coalition building)

  • Regime crises created by gridlock may yield

    • executive power grabs (large proportion of democratic breakdown)

    • Military Coups (Linz’s area of expertise was Latin America)

B. Does the United States remain a “happy exception”?

  • The electoral college and democratic legitimacy

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taking a step in the wrong direction after making positive strides

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Dangers of backsliding

1. Coordination failure

2. Some antecedents of backsliding

  • Rise of authoritarian parties (Ziblatt and Levitsky)

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Antecedents of backsliding

a. Stakes of holding power

b. Polarization

c. Mismatch between de facto and de jure power

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Interest shape what?

Preferences over institutions

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What were three critical lessons about the Constitution?

underlying interests shape preferences over interests

the reversion matters

beware appeals to framers' authority

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Define political culture

a shared way of thinking about how political/economic/social life ought to be carried out

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Effects of political culture

a. Reduce need for formal institutions

b. Reduce political frictions

  • shared identity

  • keeping certain policies off agenda

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Shared cultural background =

self enforcing equilibrium / less coordination problems

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What is the idea of a homogeneous political culture?

when a society largely shares the same political beliefs and values. (unusual)

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What are some shared beliefs in the US that may constrain political action?

individual responsibility

it is the responsibility of the government to take care of the very poor people who can't take care of themselves

how important is that that god plays a role in morality

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Origins Immigration

  • on average, immigrants tend to be

    • Middle class

    • Risk-takers

    • Those with families already in the U.S (economic safety net)

    • Young

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what are the three Alternative views to Immigration?

1. Fischer: distinct regional cultures

2. Embeddedness of race in U.S. political culture (e.g., King and Smith 2005)

3. Partisan sorting on cultural issues: e.g., race, immigration, guns

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Social capital Definition:

network of relationships in society that enable cooperation

1. Shared expectations

2. Repeated interactions

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What was De Tocqueville idea behind “self-interest rightly understood”

believed that in a democratic society, people should look out for their own interests, like pursuing their careers and happiness, but they should also care about the well-being of their community and the country. This way, everyone working together for the common good can make society better for everyone. It's like saying that what's good for the team can also be good for each individual.

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What is public opinion?

Consists of “those opinions held by private persons which governments find it prudent to heed.”

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What is attitude?

What survey instruments seek to capture. Informed by beliefs, values, and interests. Often difficult to tell what is driving what (no implicit comparison)

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What are challenges to measuring opinion?

  • Measuring errors due to

    • Respondent inattentiveness

    • Social acceptability

    • Partisan cheerleading

    • Question wording

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Reading Key Points: Bullock et. al (2015)

  • Survey respondents often give radically different answers

    • Questioned asked: Do they live in different realities or do they just like to cheer on the party?

  • Approach: Pay respondents for correct answers

  • Result: even small incentives reduce partisan divergencies by 55-60%

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What are some potential polling errors?

sampling variability (happens when the news outlets slice the data too thinly)

selection bias

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Origins of Values, Beliefs, Attitudes

1. Economic, social, and ideological interests

2. Political socialization

3. Personal experience (e.g., Egan and Mullin 2012)

4. Elite cues and partisan persuasion

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What is Political socialization?

  • Family and Friends influence, social circles, organizations

    • ex: White & Laind (2020): more homogeneous social network affects democratic self - identification

      • argue that attachment of Black voters to Democratic Party

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What is elite cues and partisan persuasion?

  • Set of elites, experts, media, and might be voters might be cueing off by what they say and make them our own

    • a. Zaller’s (1992) theory of “top of head” survey responses and opinion change among the more politically informed

    • b. Gerber et. al. (2011): short-term persuasive effects of advertising

    • c. Broockman (2017): letters from legislators change constituent opinions

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Define Elite position

Taking drives opinion change, but only among more aware respondents

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Gerber et. al. (2011):

  • short-term persuasive effects of advertising in randomized field experiment

    • places that got more advertisement said would favor (more GRPS)

      • one week later no effect

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Broockman (2017):

letters from legislators change constituent opinions, even among initial disagreement

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Unpacking the classic view: assumptions that need to hold

  1. Converse (1964): Absence of ideological constraint, persistence

  2. Responses to Converse

  3. Response to the response: elite cues may drive certain attitudes

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Question 1: Do Citizens hold coherent positions at all?

  • Converse (1964): Absence of ideological constraint, persistence

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Responses to Converse

a. Partisan cues may be sufficient, esp. given partisan sorting

b. Stability of opinion in the aggregate

c. Measurement error may drive apparent lack of constraint, persistence

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Question 2: Do Politicians know what citizens positions are?

  • Politicians misperceptions

    • ex: evidence from Brookman and Skovron (2018): politicians can be wildly off in estimating public opinion

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Response to the response:

elite cues may drive certain attitudes

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Question 3: Do citizens process information about performance in an unbiased way?

1. Retrospective voting (this was revisited in the Mass Participation Lecture)

  • Retrospective voting defined

  • Evidence of retrospective voting: economic performance and electoral performance of the president’s party

2. Potential biases

  • “Blind retrospection” (Achen and Bartels 2016)

  • Recency bias

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What is the Nash equilibrium in Democracy?

  • Voters reward politicians for (1) holding positions consistent with voter attitudes and (2) perform well in office

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Politicians find it prudent to…

(1) heed public attitudes (key 1966) & (2) perform well in office

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What is expected value of this gamble mean exactly?

Thin and Thick rationality - how people deal with uncertainty, evaluate risk and make choices.

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