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Conflict and the evolution of societies

  • David K. Levine
  • Salvatore Modica
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    The Malthusian theory of evolution disregards a pervasive fact about human societies: they expand through conflict. When this is taken account of the long-run favors not a large population at the level of subsistence, nor yet institutions that maximize welfare or per capita output, but rather institutions that maximize free resources. These free resources are the output available to society after deducting the payments necessary for subsistence and for the incentives needed to induce pro- duction, and the other claims to production such as transfer payments and resources absorbed by elites. We develop the evolutionary underpinnings of this model, and examine the implications of free resource maximization for the evolution of societies in several applications. Since free resources are increasing both in per capita income and population, evolution will favor large rich societies. We will show how technological improvement is likely to increase per capita output as well as increase population, and how economically inefficient institutions such as bureaucracy arise.

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    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2012-032.

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    Date of creation: 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2012-032
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    1. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1996. "The Theory of Learning in Games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 624, David K. Levine.
    2. David K. Levine & Salvatore Modica & Federico Weinschelbaum & Felipe Zurita, 2012. "Evolving to the impatience trap: the example of the farmer-sheriff game," Working Papers 2012-033, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    3. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2010. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-01, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jul 2010.
    4. Foster, Dean P. & Young, H. Peyton, 2003. "Learning, hypothesis testing, and Nash equilibrium," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 73-96, October.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did The West Extend The Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, And Growth In Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199, November.
    6. Samuel Bowles & Astrid Hopfensitz, 2000. "The Co-evolution of Individual Behaviors and Social Institutions," Working Papers 00-12-073, Santa Fe Institute.
    7. Kandori, Michihiro & Mailath, George J & Rob, Rafael, 1993. "Learning, Mutation, and Long Run Equilibria in Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 29-56, January.
    8. Dekel, Eddie & Ely, Jeffrey & Yilankaya, Okan, 2004. "Evolution of Preferences," Microeconomics.ca working papers dekel-04-08-13-01-21-07, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 09 Jun 2006.
    9. Giulio Bottazzi & Pietro Dindo, 2010. "Evolution and market behavior with endogenous investment rules," LEM Papers Series 2010/20, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    10. Kjell Hausken, 2005. "Production and Conflict Models Versus Rent-Seeking Models," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 59-93, April.
    11. Dincecco, Mark & Federico, Giovanni & Vindigni, Andrea, 2011. "Warfare, Taxation, and Political Change: Evidence from the Italian Risorgimento," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(04), pages 887-914, December.
    12. Ingela Alger & J�rgen W. Weibull, 2010. "Kinship, Incentives, and Evolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1725-58, September.
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