Specific applications of SEP at the meso level

Over the years, I have also deployed SEP to explain social outcomes at the meso level. Later, I highlight two of these applications that have wide implications.

The social evolutionary origin of the Industrial Revolution

The coming of the Industrial Revolution is a central puzzle of social sciences: How did England come up with the right mix of institution and technology that finally pulled the human species out of the Malthusian trap that had dominated our species since the very beginning? As a singular event, this puzzle presented a formidable challenge for empirical social sciences.

Our approach toward this puzzle is to apply the SEP-underpinned general theory of institutional change outlined earlier, combine it with a growth model that integrates institutions and endogenous growth theory, and then simulate the model with computer simulation (Tang et al., n. d.). Briefly, we first construct a growth model that integrates institutions (as codified social knowledge), technological knowledge, the quality dimension of knowledge, and political power in allocating production factors to different sectors (i.coproduction with good/valid ideas versus production with bad/invalid ideas). We then allow different political entities (i.e., states, kingdoms) to choose institutions with different growth-promoting capacities randomly and hence allocate production factors differently. These differences in institutions and allocation of production factors are the key variations among states. More critically, we allow different political entities to compete against each other via war of conquest as a process of artificial selection. We go on to predict that as long as different states with different institutions that allocate production factors differently within a system can compete against each other via war of conquest, the Industrial Revolution, defined as the state in which the growth rate of GDP is greater than the growth rate of population, is inevitable (cf. Jones 2001,2005). Apparently, such a system resembles the post-medieval European system.

With ABM computer simulation, we then show that in such a system populated by states, as long as different states invent and adopt different institutions and compete against each other, the Industrial Revolution will always arise. Eventually, this pattern of GDP overtaking the growth rate of population forever will spread to the whole system, pushing more states out of the Malthusian trap. Behind this whole process lies the central mechanism of artificial VSI/SVI.

Our approach triumphs over those models that model a single economy ((ones 2001, 2005; Galor and Weil 2000). In such a system, there is no possibility of a genuinely endogenously driven Industrial Revolution; the Industrial Revolution must come from some exogenous push. Our model and simulation also explain why the Industrial Revolution came to the European systems rather than Imperial China, the Ottoman Empire, or ancient India, which did hold some technological advantages but lacked sufficient competition among institutions and states for a sustained period of time.

Our approach of combining rigorous modeling with ABM, which can simulate the emergence of macro and meso outcomes from interaction at the micro level via the central mechanism of artificial VSI/SVI, can be applied to establish the plausibility of theoretical explanations and mechanisms for a variety of empirical puzzles.

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