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Divide and Conquer: Noisy Communication in Networks, Power, and Wealth Distribution

  • Wilson Perez

    (Department of Economics, Cornell University)

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    In a society composed of a ruler and its citizens: what are the determinants of the political equilibrium between these two? This paper approaches this problem as a game played between a ruler who has to decide the distribution of the aggregate income and a group of agents/citizens who have the opportunity to revolt if they are unhappy with the distribution. Nevertheless, if too few revolt, the agents become defeated and receive zero consumption, while a successful revolt increases the consumption level of the rebels whereas the ruler receives nothing. Coordinated action by citizens is possible because they form nodes in a communication network. However, communication through the network is noisy, which removes common knowledge about the endowments and could preclude the emergence of collective action among citizens. In this paper, I argue that the network structure and the noise level are determinants of the political equilibrium and wealth distribution. The model explains how the ruler could use propaganda, cooptation and repression to increase his expected utility. The formalization of the game is accomplished using such concepts as p-beliefs and p-dominant strategy (Monderer and Samet, 1989, and Morris and Shin, 2002). Finally, I illustrate the model by applying it to cases in Nigeria and Zaire/Congo.

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    Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2004.33.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2004
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    Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2004.33
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    1. Edward C. Prescott & Stephen L. Parente, 1999. "Monopoly Rights: A Barrier to Riches," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1216-1233, December.
    2. Djankov, Simeon & et al, 2003. "Who Owns the Media?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 341-81, October.
    3. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Why Not a Political Coase Theorem? Social Conflict, Commitment and Politics," NBER Working Papers 9377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Stephen Morris, . ""Approximate Common Knowledge Revisited''," CARESS Working Papres 96-06, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
    6. Chwe, Michael Suk-Young, 2000. "Communication and Coordination in Social Networks," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 1-16, January.
    7. Stephen Morris & Hyun S Shin, 2001. "Global Games: Theory and Applications," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001080, David K. Levine.
    8. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-50, November.
    9. Monderer, Dov & Samet, Dov, 1989. "Approximating common knowledge with common beliefs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 170-190, June.
    10. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
    11. Bardhan, Pranab, 1988. "Some Reflections on the Use of the Concept of Power in Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4kd9k7bt, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    12. Paul Collier & Jan Willem Gunning, 1999. "Why Has Africa Grown Slowly?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
    13. Theodore C. Bergstrom, 2002. "Evolution of Social Behavior: Individual and Group Selection," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 67-88, Spring.
    14. Venkatesh Bala & Sanjeev Goyal, 2000. "A Noncooperative Model of Network Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1181-1230, September.
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