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Globalization and the Race to the Bottom. Economic Competition (a.k.a. Globalization) Aging populations Increasing frustration/distrust of public authority Fiscal Crises. In Fact we see Variation - Not Convergence. Is Globalization like Global Warming?. Variation: Not Convergence.

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Globalization and the race to the bottom
Globalization and the Race to the Bottom

  • Economic Competition (a.k.a. Globalization)

  • Aging populations

  • Increasing frustration/distrust of public authority

  • Fiscal Crises

Variation not convergence

Is Globalizationlike Global Warming?

Variation: Not Convergence

The scientific method derived from the hard sciences

The Scientific Method - Derived from the Hard Sciences

[Social scientists] envision a world composed of linear relationships among variables, parity in the size of cause and effect, recurrent patterns over time, and the fundamental insignificance of chance happenings.

Alan Zuckerman (1997)

Evolutionary science
Evolutionary Science?

  • Evolutionary science has required an investigation of “additional principles that apply only to living organisms… This required a restructuring of the conceptual world of science that was far more fundamental than anyone had imagined at the time.” Ernst Mayr, 2004

If politics were mechanics

If politics were mechanics:

We could:

Assume variable independence

Omit or control for:



Human Agency

Accurately predict change.

My argument:Political Systems areComplex Adaptive Systems:They Evolve and Adapt in a dynamic environment (which they, in part, create themselves)

This model explicitly brings in:

Historical context (the dynamic ecology)



Symbiosis and Co-Evolution

Agency (source of Variation)

How political systems evolve
How Political Systems Evolve

  • Institutions are the ‘rules’ structuring political life

    • Institutions, like genes, are nothing more than behavioral instructions (rules).

  • Human agency and creativity are the sources of variation in institutional evolution.

    • Humans rationally calculate as much as they can, but are biased thinkers.

  • History Matters:

    • Institutions structure strategic choices AND ultimately shape preferences because institutional choices at time A become part of the ecological context at time B.

Two evolutionary narratives if time allows
Two Evolutionary Narratives (if time allows)

  • The USA - The Land of Milk and Honey, racing toward the bottom.

  • Sweden - The Bumble-bee that should not fly

The united states contingent conditions
The United States: Contingent Conditions

  • Massive natural resources and huge land mass to exploit.

  • Destination for world’s greatest migration

  • Fear of the democracy.

  • Institutional fragmentation

  • Checks and balances, federalism, etc.

  • Slavery

America adaptation and institutional choices
America Adaptation and Institutional Choices

  • Early Century - FDR and the push for a public sphere. Why did it fail?

  • Both Political Institutions and Cognitive Frames are Biased against Government

    (New Deal, Great Society, War on Poverty)

  • Second best choices: Targeted social welfare benefits (esp. via tax incentives)

  • Increasing Distrust of Government

  • Growing inequality

Sweden contingent conditions
Sweden: Contingent Conditions

  • Small homogeneous population

  • Significant natural resources

  • Northern edge of expanding Europe

  • Able to stay neutral in TWO wars - arms supplier and manufacturing advantage

  • Late/concentrated industrial development

  • Huge conflict between economic classes

Sweden adaptation and institutional choice
Sweden:Adaptation and Institutional Choice

  • Highly concentrated economy (unions and employers)

  • Electoral Rules bias towards compromise

  • The “Historic Compromise” - Saltsjöbad

  • Women instead of immigrants into labor market

Sweden s success is neither obvious nor inevitable
Sweden’s success is neither obvious, nor inevitable.

  • Competitive, open economy and the “Universal Social Welfare State”

  • High trust society

Political evolution and institutional choice

Political Evolution and Institutional Choice

Institutions, like genes, are rules that structure behavior by telling actors how to behave in particular contexts.

History “evolves” precisely because humans have the capacity to create, select and copy institutions.

When building institutions, we build part of the ecological contexts in which future generations make new choices.

Human’s thus make their own ‘evolutionary history’ but they cannot make it exactly according to their wishes.