The paper first highlights Olson’s contribution to social sciences. Two main dimensions of political regimes are then distinguished. Features of economically successful reforms are defi ned. Next, the situational determinants of market reforms are discussed. Against this background a special case is analyzed: reforms after socialism. Finally, the deterioration of economic systems and their causes are presented.
Non-cooperative games such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, Stag Hunt, Asymmetric Coordination and others are primary tools used for modeling collective action. I consider formal models that are close cousins of such standard games: Schelling’s games, Kuran’s dominos and partition function form games. For certain empirical problems, each of these formalisms may have advantages over standard games. Among the benefi ts there are mathematical simplicity, more intuitive depiction of represented phenomena, and better operationalizability. I formalize all three models and prove simple existence theorems for two of them. The detailed examples of applications include vaccination, unpredictability of revolutions, and electoral coalitions.
This essay proposes that time preference is an essential component of analysis of collective behavior and provision of public goods. It addresses the validity of the assumption that time preference, as a parameter in individual utility functions, is exogenous and fi xed. While individual time discounting is used to predict many social phenomena, it is quite often applied in a fi xed form where the possibility of change is rarely discussed. The mechanism of change in individual time discounting is explored in different social contexts, using student, inmate and drug addict populations. This study establishes that certain parameters, such as the length of exposure to new environment and new social connections, are of extreme importance in determining the degree of change in time discounting.
How does the redistribution of income that a regime prescribes for society and the amount of public-good social-overhead investment it provides depend on the nature of that regime? And how do these influence said society’s productive success? Connections among these phenomena informed much of Mancur Olson’s (1982, 1991) life-work now so foundational to the literature on redistributive politics, economic growth/prosperity, and the nature of regimes. Still a transparent simple account of how the nature of a regime determines trade-offs between transfers and public capital investment can improve the foundations and clarify anomalies present in the literature. Here we elaborate a model to address these questions and we prove, contrary to received wisdom, that redistribution can reduce or actually and unexpectedly increase supplies of public overhead capital. Redistributive taxation reduces capital productivity, which incentivizes governments to supply less. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, redistribution can also so deplete the tax base that to offset some of the loss government will actually invest more in the way of public-overhead factor inputs than would a less redistributive regime of an otherwise comparable society.
Even if we ignore the consequences of Russia’s intervention into Ukraine’s internal affairs, Ukraine confronts some seemingly insurmountable problems in transitioning to a stable and prosperous state. Having inherited a top down and largely corrupt political structure, there are those who see decentralization in some form as a partial solution. Here, though, we argue that decentralization, even if crafted on the European Union template of subsidiarity, can introduce problems of collective action that would further undermine the country’s viability. To avoid exacerbating the problems of collective action occasioned by Ukraine’s fractured political economic system, decentralization must proceed with an understanding of how those problems are treated in successful federal states
Relational goods contribute to understanding why people engage in collective action, notably including political participation, even though, as Olson showed, it would often be more rational for them to free-ride on the activity of others. Relational goods are neither public goods nor private goods but a third type of good. They must be jointly consumed with another person or persons (unlike private goods), but the identity of the other persons matters crucially (unlike the case for public goods). Relational goods can only exist by mutual agreement as part of a relationship with non-arbitrary others, in the context of an interaction. Friendship is a prototypical example. Relational goods can exist along a range of personal contact from direct, where individuals interact face to face, to indirect, where the interaction may be at a distance with a certain type of person. In the indirect case the relational good may frequently take the form of reinforcing a desired social identity. The distinction between “consumption” and “instrumental” goods applies, parallel with other usage. The consumption relational goods are produced independent of any consequences of the action or relationship, while the instrumental ones refl ect consequences, such as from an action that enhances the value of an identity. People who value relational goods may act collectively even if other net benefi ts of action are negative. Larger groups become more, not less, prone to collective activity. Relational goods provide a missing element to understand how the process of mobilization works at the individual level; leaders can infl uence people’s perceptions of what others are doing, of the value of a shared identity, and of the likelihood of success. Some limited empirical evidence is consistent with relational goods playing a role in enhancing collective action.
Mancur Olson offered us big thoughts on big subjects. Today, he might well attack the problem of climate change and the current failure of nations to act effectively. Olson would note the incentives of nations to ride free or cheaply. He would observe that climate change is an alliance problem, one where some nations have much more at stake than others. With climate change, the alliance problem is redoubled, since the asymmetries among nations fall along multiple dimensions, including those of vulnerability to climate change, history of greenhouse emissions, emissions per dollar of GNP, level of economic development, and cultural environmental concerns. Each nation, valuing primarily its own concerns, advances principles favoring itself in the apportionment of painful cuts. Not surprisingly, the cuts that nations have agreed upon for the heralded 2015 Paris Accords will be woefully insuffi cient to avoid exacerbating climate change. Thus, despite much international discussion and many platitudinous agreements, concerns about the distribution of painful cuts will continue to prevent the nations of the world from even approaching an effi cient agreement. Our threatened planet needs a more sophisticated approach to this and other collective action problems, a fi eld pioneered by Mancur Olson.