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The Isle of Ted Simulation: Teaching Collective Action in International Relations and Organization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 September 2002

G. Dale Thomas
University of West Florida


The Isle of Ted Simulation is a successful teaching tool that is disarmingly simple yet repeatedly captivates participants. Although I originally designed the simulation to explain collective-action problems in American politics, almost all recent uses of the simulation have been in international relations and international organization classes. The simulation is an effective teaching tool for a wide variety of issues including:

  1. collective goods and free riders (e.g., Olson 1971)

  2. international organizations versus international organization and global governance versus global government (e.g., Rosenau and Czempiel 1992)

  3. regimes and the effects of transparency (e.g., Keohane 1982, 1984; Krasner 1982; Mitchell 1994; Young 1989, 1994)

  4. relative and absolute gains (e.g., Grieco 1988)

  5. constructivist approaches to international relations (e.g., Wendt 1992)

  6. rational choice models of decision making (e.g., Bueno de Mesquita 2000; Lave and March 1993; Monroe 1991)

  7. and how the shadow of the future can engender cooperation in the present (e.g, Axelrod 1984; Hardin 1982; Shubik 1970).

© 2002 by the American Political Science Association

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This manuscript was originally presented at the International Studies Association/South Annual Meeting, October 20–22, 2000, Birmingham, Alabama.