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An Agent-Based Model of Centralized Institutions, Social Network Technology, and Revolution

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  • Michael D. Makowsky

    ()
    (Center for Advanced Modeling of the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University)

  • Jared Rubin

    (Department of Economics, Chapman University)

Abstract

Recent uprisings in the Arab world consist of individuals revealing vastly different preferences than were expressed prior to the uprisings. This paper sheds light on the general mechanisms underlying large-scale social and institutional change. We employ an agent-based model to test the impact of authority centralization and social network technology on preference revelation and falsification, social protest, and institutional change. We find that the amount of social and institutional change is decreasing with authority centralization in simulations with low network range but is increasing with authority centralization in simulations with greater network range. The relationship between institutional change and social shocks is not linear, but rather is characterized by sharp discontinuities. The threshold at which a shock can “tip” a system towards institutional change is decreasing with the geographic reach of citizen social networks. Farther reaching social networks reduce the robustness and resilience of central authorities to change. This helps explain why highly centralized regimes frequently attempt to restrict information flows via the media and Internet. More generally, our results highlight the role that information and communication technology can play in triggering cascades of preference revelation and revolutionary activity in varying institutional regimes.

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File URL: http://www.towson.edu/cbe/economics/workingpapers/2011-05.pdf
File Function: First version, 2011
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Towson University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011-05.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2011
Date of revision: Oct 2011
Handle: RePEc:tow:wpaper:2011-05

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Postal: Towson, Maryland 21252-0001
Phone: 410-704-2959
Fax: 410-704-3424
Web page: http://www.towson.edu/cbe/economics/
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Keywords: preference falsification; revolution; protest; network technology; agent-based model.;

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  1. Wright, Gavin, 1999. "The Civil Rights Revolution as Economic History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(02), pages 267-289, June.
  2. Cowan,Robin & Jonard,Nicolas, 1999. "Network Structure and the Diffusion of Knowledge," Research Memorandum 026, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  3. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  4. Joshua M. Epstein & Robert L. Axtell, 1996. "Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262550253, December.
  5. Kuran, Timur, 1987. "Preference Falsification, Policy Continuity and Collective Conservatism," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 642-65, September.
  6. Rubin, Jared, 2011. "Centralized institutions and cascades," MPRA Paper 32364, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
  8. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
  9. Kuran, Timur, 1991. "The East European Revolution of 1989: Is It Surprising That We Were Surprised?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 121-25, May.
  10. Lee, In Ho & Valentinyi, Akos, 2000. "Noisy Contagion without Mutation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 47-56, January.
  11. Christopher J. Ellis & John Fender, 2011. "Information Cascades and Revolutionary Regime Transitions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(553), pages 763-792, 06.
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