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Proponents of small government such as the Heritage Foundation (e.g. see their recent proclamation that “U.S. Financial markets do not need a New Regulator (Links to an external site.)” and the American Enterprise Institute argue their points based on the basic principle that big government will more than likely get it wrong and do more damage than good. They argue that it is best to leave matters to individuals and firms who know their own demands and skill sets much better than government possibly can, and let the market system self-organize to achieve the best outcomes.

Critique this statement using complex systems science ideas. In your critique consider the following points:

1) Complex systems science and evidence from the Bali, New Guinea, and Systemic Risk in Financial Systems cases may support this claim. Complex systems solve problems well, but can be vulnerable to top-down interventions. Thus, the “big government” solution of the green revolution was bound to damage the water temple system and not perform as well.

2) However, much of what we do as humans is constrained by legal institutions (systems of rules which are very expensive to maintain and enforce and of which, the water temple rituals and Kaiko are examples). Notice that social insects do not require such complex institutions. Why is this? And why would this difference generate problems for human societies if we removed almost all regulation and just let societies self-organize? Consider the interaction between the individuals in the golden balls example and contrast this with the interactions between ants. Remember, all ants in a colony are all sisters (except on rare occasions when the colony “makes” some males, all ants are females). How would two ants play the golden ball game? Now think of banks in the “financial systems game”.  They engage in similar kinds of strategic behavior.  What implications does this have for the banking system as a whole? View 1 is that complex systems (and our free market economy is an example of one) are great, decentralized problem solvers. Thus, we should just let the market solve problems, and government should be as small as possible (but how small and what government functions should be retained???) and stay out of the way. View 2: Because of certain tendencies of humans (which are very different from ants), considerable government intervention is necessary (but how much intervention and where???) to make the market system work well for everyone.

Your critique should be one page (not including references), single spaced, 1 inch margins, 11 point font. In your critique, analyze both views in a balanced way by presenting evidence for or against each using complex systems science. Don’t waste space at the top with your name, date, or a title.

Your critique should focus on what complex system science has to contribute to these views. It should not be an opinion piece! It should draw on examples from all modules, and especially ideas about collective behavior in social insects in Module 4, human societies from Module 5, and particular aspects of human behavior that are evident in the golden ball example. Your discussion should also draw on the fact that individuals in insect societies are all related, and how this might make a society very different than one composed of all sorts of very different people. Each substantive statement you make should be qualified with an idea or example from complex systems science.

Finally, do not describe or recount examples from the course.  Use them only as evidence. For example  “The Golden Balls example illustrates that humans can be both selfish and cooperative” is good, while  “Golden Balls is a game in which two players have to choose split or steal… Ibrahim….. and NIck…….(description of what happened)…..” is not appropriate.

This assignment, as with Assignment 3, is intended to be thought provoking. However, now that you have been working with complexity science ideas for 4 weeks, I expect this paper to be more analytical. Thus, we will be basing our assessment on the following points

You carefully address both sides of the question. You may eventually make a stronger case for one or the other view based on evidence, but you must provide some evidence for both views.
Your discussion should be that of a dispassionate analyst weighing evidence. The goal is to use ideas from complex systems science and material from the course (and other materials you wish to use outside of class that is citable) to make an an argument about the relative merits of both views.
It is essential that you use clear evidence for your argument – clear examples from the course materials or other references and concise ideas, e.g. emergence, decentralized decision making, stability, sensitivity to initial conditions, problems with aggregation (group think, voting systems, breaking ties, etc.), multiple stable attractors (remember the crazy swirling ant hurricane?), diversity (inequality) etc.  Use the definition of complex systems clearly and concisely: define the agents, how information is exchanged, and relevant higher-level selection mechanisms. Hint: individual humans are not the only ‘agents’ in economic systems. Recall the the article ‘Ecology for Bankers’ in which the ‘agents’ are banks.  In complex systems, ‘agents’ are entities that process information even though they may be made of up multiple agents at a lower level.
In your concluding paragraph you synthesize the evidence you have presented for both views and then argue for one or the other view, or suggest that the evidence isn’t strong enough one way or the other.  Again, DO NOT treat this synthesis as you would an opinion piece!  Rather, concisely summarize and weigh the evidence for each view. Finally, conclude with a recommendation about how ideas from  complex systems science may be applied to improve the effectiveness of government (you may also conclude that they cannot help, but be clear about why this is the case).
As with all writing at this level, write clearly and concisely with no typos, errors, etc.  You must cite sources for your arguments, i.e. it is not enough to say “in module 3, so and so said…”.  In fact, it is probably best to not refer to modules in your writing.


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