COMPUTATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE SEMINAR – The Emergence of Self-governance Institutions: Agent-based Simulation of Game Theoretic Models of Democratization – Elaine Reed

April 27, 2018 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Center for Social Complexity Suite 3rd Floor, Research Hall, Fairfax Campus
Karen Underwood


 Elaine Reed PhD, PMP
The MITRE Corporation

The Emergence of Self-governance Institutions: Agent-based Simulation of Game Theoretic Models of Democratization

Friday, April 27,  3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite
3rd Floor, Research Hall


My work developed an agent based simulation of Acemoglu and Robinson’s game theoretic models to explore the incentives and interactions that lead to the creation and consolidation of democracy.  A growing body of work has found that the way a society organizes itself through its political institutions impacts its economic performance. This work has been largely descriptive. Empirical work has focused on highly aggregate country level characteristics and no description of the underlying human motivations and mechanisms.

Institutions are created by people interacting in complex ways with others in their socio-economic environment. A study of institutions should therefore study the people and interactions that create them.
Acemoglu and Robinson developed a theory on the creation and consolidation of democracy through a game-theoretic framework. They studied how economic incentives influence the way social groups shape institutions to allocate political and economic power. The A&R models assume groups of people are completely rational and identical intra-group in order to make the models mathematically tractable. My dissertation utilizes an agent-based computational methodology to reproduce the A&R formal models with the same restrictions in order to validate my model. Specifically, with intra-group homogeneity the agent-based model reproduces the group-level threshold conditions affecting institutional choices found by A&R. I show that these results are robust to parameter changes within the ranges defined by A&R. The more flexible computational methodology allows me to relax the restrictive assumptions and explore how a more realistic set of assumptions such as heterogeneous incomes and limited intelligence affect the larger outcomes for all groups. The population structure with heterogeneity can include a more realistic middle class. Modeling a middle class by using agent-based models with heterogeneous agents finds that the effect of a middle class is non-linear and does not make democratizations more likely for all ranges of underlying economic conditions. This work demonstrates the usefulness of agent-based modeling as a viable alternative quantitative methodology for studying complex institutions.