Jul 27, 2014

A disjointed post on complexity, institutions and the future of the commons research-agenda

Is diversity good or bad? That is a pretty ambiguous question since it does not define "diversity," "good," or "bad." If we ask the question in the context of a complex system, the economy, for example, we could define diversity as a "large enough" number of different industries, different firms, etc. In the same context "good" can be defined as high "functionality," "stability," "fitness," "robustness," or "innovativeness," etc. To be sure in some context diversity increases different measurements of "goodness." For example a more "diverse" population can be more resilient against an external shock, such as a viral disease. On the other hand, high diversity can be negative. High ethnic fragmentation for example might lead to conflict. So, diversity in the context of complex systems is more complex than I initially thought. That is the main idea I got from reading this excellent book. I might go back and read it again to understand better the models used to explore diversity, which seem pretty simple but are actually deep and fascinating.

From the author' parting thoughts:
The system itself is more robust, more efficient, or more innovative if it contains the appropriate amount and kinds of diversity.
That takes me to a book I just started: Understanding Institutional Diversity by Lin Ostrom. If understandig diversity is a complex challenge, understanding the diversity of institutions is equally challenging. I have read only the first chapter, and this is one bit:
Institutions are only one of a large number of elements that affect behavior in any particular situation at a particular time and place. No single cause exists for human behavior.
Lin Ostrom legacy is massive, and one wonders what directions the commons research agenda will take. Eduardo Araral offers an interesting answer:
I propose that the third generation research agenda on the commons move away from research that are basically variations of the same theme (which variables are important) and arrives at fundamentally the same and settled conclusion (i.e. the drama of local commons). I argue instead that scholars of the commons need to pay attention to the following fundamental questions raised in this paper.  
First, is Ostrom’s critique of Hardin really a special case applicable to small locally governed commons? Second, is Hardin really justified in the case of large scale, national, regional and international commons? Are there examples to the contrary? Third, how can the flaws in studies supporting the external validity of Ostrom’s institutional design principles be remedied, for instance confirmatory bias, endogeneity, multi-collinearity and specification problems? Fourth, are the “commons” that scholars purport to study qualify as CPRs (i.e. exclusion to the resource system is difficult) or are they private property owned by limited partnerships? Fifth, are scholars who argue for the privatization of CPRs (organically evolved rather than imposed) justified in their claims that it can avert the tragedy of the commons? Or as a counterfactual, are there examples of privatized CPRs - overtime - that can be considered as unsuccessful contrary to the standard model? Until scholars of the commons unambiguously settle these questions, the conclusions from this paper should be considered tentative and merely points to unanswered questions and avenues for future research.  
Finally, and most importantly, whatever limitations the first and second generation commons literature may have, future scholars of the commons certainly owe a debt of gratitude to Ostrom and her colleagues for having laid down the foundations for a third generation research agenda on the commons and inspiring a new generation of scholars. pp 19-20. 

Jul 26, 2014

Science as a Craft Industry

Science is constantly changing, and the craft industries that it engenders must change too. Technologies rise and fall, and fashions come and go. In the future, many of the small enterprises of today will be consolidated, and new small enterprises will have to find different niches to fill. Today the most successful craft industries are concerned with software and biotechnology. The craft industries of the future might be concerned with neurophysiology or ecology, with technologies not yet invented or with sciences not yet named. Two facts of life will not change. Science will continue to generate unpredictable new ideas and opportunities. And human beings will continue to respond to new ideas and opportunities with new skills and inventions. We remain tool-making animals, and science will continue to exercise the creativity programmed into our genes.
That is Freeman J. Dyson in 1998 in this article, which I found in one of Lin Ostrom's syllabi. 

Jul 22, 2014

Institutional Analysis and Development

This is another interesting syllabus. It is Lin Ostrom's "Institutional Analysis and Development: Micro Workshop in Political Theory and Political Analysis." It is an impressive list of readings. 

Jul 21, 2014

Jul 20, 2014

Now, it seems, Mexican authorities will reinforce the southern border . . . how ironic

The idea is that Mexico can't deal with immigrants from the south, meaning, mainly, Central Americans. How ironic . . . 
Last year, Mexico deported 89,000 Central Americans, including 9,000 children, the bulk of the returnees coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, officials have said. In the fiscal year that ended last September, the United States sent back 106,420 from those countries. 
So far this year, Mexico has detained 53 child migrants a day, mostly Central American, double the pace of the same period last year. It has deported more than 30,000 Central Americans so far this year, including more than 14,000 Hondurans, driven home on packed buses at least three times a week. 
Francisco Alba, a migration scholar at the Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, said the influx creates a conundrum: It is almost impossible to stop the flow, yet the country cannot support a large population of refugees. 
“There is not really much the country can do about it,” Mr. Alba said. “It cannot really stop these flows. Its tradition is to not have these tight controls and to have a relatively accommodating attitude toward migration, to a point.” 

Jul 19, 2014

Emergence underpins the idea of the ladder of science

From this very interesting book
Emergence underpins the idea of the ladder of science. Physics becomes chemistry, chemistry becomes biology, biology becomes psychology, and so on. Or, put another way: cells emerge from the interactions of atoms, organs emerge from the interactions of cells, and societies emerge from the interactions of people. Each level of emergence produces higher order functionalities. Cells divide. Hearts beat. People think. Societies mobilize. p. 26

Jul 17, 2014

The Growth of Protestantism in Brazil

For years, Ronaldo da Silva's daily routine consisted of drinking himself into a stupor until he passed out on a sidewalk. Now he spends his days praying and singing with hundreds of fellow Christians at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Carapicuiba, a sprawling shantytown on the outskirts of Sao Paulo where Pentecostal congregations are found on just about every block.

‘I'd probably be dead or in jail if it weren't for this church,’ said da Silva, a 38-year- old former Catholic who claims God cured him of epilepsy and helped him straighten out his life when he converted to Pentecostalism a decade ago.
Conversions like da Silva's are increasingly common all over Brazil, where a boom in evangelical Protestantism is steadily chipping away at the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. p 1
That is Todd Benson, cited in this paper by Potter, Amaral, & Woodberry. The draft is here and it is published in Social Forces.  

Análisis de Redes y libros de desarrollo económico

Sigo leyendo el libro Aid on the Edge of Chaos, específicamente la parte donde habla sobre análisis de redes y desarrollo económico. Un ejemplo que da el autor es el de una ONG en Ghana que trabajaba en temas de salud. La ONG obtuvo buenos resultados, pero cuando dejó Ghana esos resultados desaparecieron. Se perdió el buen trabajo. ¿Por qué paso esto? 

La ONG había construido una red muy activa de personas y organizaciones y era el centro de conectividad. Cuando se fué dejo un vacío que no se pudo llenar y el sistema, por decirlo de alguna manera, colapsó. Esto no se supo hasta que se hizo un análisis de redes. 

Me interesó el tema e hice un análisis simple de redes con datos que tengo al alcance: libros de desarrollo económico en amazon.com. 

Supongamos que alguien desea leer sobre desarrollo económico y busca "economic development" en Amazon. El primer libro que Amazon presenta es el texto de Todaro y Smith, Economic Development, y las personas que compran este libro también compran: Poor Economics, The End of Poverty, Development as Freedom, The Tyranny of Experts, Into de Mud, y Community Development. Estos libros representaran "el corazón" de mi red. 

Para cada uno de estos libros Amazon sugiere otros (lo que sería ya el "tercer nivel", por llamarlo de alguna manera), y así sucesivamente. Yo incluí los libros hasta el "cuarto nivel" de recomendación. En la red cada nodo representa un libro y está vinculado a otros si los consumidores que el primero compraron también el segundo. Esta es la red: 
Hay varias cosas que vale la pena notar:
  • Los libros con la mayor cantidad de conexiones son el 16, 4, 12, 2, 3, y 7, es decir: Edge at the Age of Chaos, Development as Freedom, Death Aid, Poor Economics, End of Poverty, and Community Development
  • Es interesante que después de dos sugerencias los libros cambian de tema hacia temas espirituales (el cluster del 56 al 61 y del 62 al 66) . . . [el desarrollo es algo complejo]. 
  • Después de dos niveles (desde la búsqueda inicial) se encuentran libros desde la perspectiva de la sociología del autor Zygmunt Bauman (el cluster del 50 al 55), quien resalta temas de desigualad, incertidumbre, felicidad, y muchos otros.
  • Otro cluster interesante está  formado por los libros del 74 al 78. Alli tenemos a autores como Harvey, Polanyi, y Chomsky. 
  • Development as Feedom es el libro que mas conecta a los demas. 
  • Es posible que buena parte de la manera en que vemos el mundo, en este caso el desarrollo económico, esté marcado por el path dependence de los primeros libros que leímos sobre el tema. 
Hay que aclarar que solo he visto a una minúscula parte de la red. Esta red es enorme y ni puedo imaginar lo que Amazon puede hacer con sus datos. 

Por otro lado, estos resultados son dependientes de la búsqueda inicial que partió del libro de Todaro y Smith, que es un texto clásico en el campo del desarrollo económico. Es posible también que los resultados que yo obtuve de las búsquedas sean diferentes a las que otras personas pueden obtener.