Political philosophy perspective on collective intelligence

From Handbook of Collective Intelligence

Jump to: navigation, search


This is a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910 [1]).

In one version, mutualism argues that the resource allocation problem for society is best solved by every individual doing what he wishes and only what he wishes (Proudhon, 1840) [2]. See also Smith (1776) [3], Hayek (1948) [4].

In an opposing version, collectivism argues that the solution requires ownership by workers. Bakunin further argues that workers should be compensated by effort rather than production (Cutler 1994) [5]. Marx went even further, to propose that the entire economy should be subject to a dictatorship of the proleteriat (Marx, 1867) [6].

Effect of Steve Forbes being elected president, on municipal bond prices: Slemrod and Greimel (1999) [7]

  1. Effect of an Iraq war, on equities prices: Leigh, Wolfers, Zitzewitz (2003) [8]
  2. Effect of a Republican win in the presidential elections, on equities prices: Snowberg, Wolfers, and Zitzewitz (2007) [9]

Logic of collective action

Olson (1971) [10] propose that individuals’ self interest might hinder the emergence of collective action. He believes that group size reduces the cost of not participating (free-riding, see also Simmel and Wolff (1964) [11]). Further, group size reduces the share of benefit but increases the cost of participation (the interest of the individual is less aligned to the group average, and there is higher cost of organizing a large group).

How do large groups overcome the problem of collective action. One way is to be smaller, such as in corporate spin-offs. Another approach is from Gould (1995) [12], who argues that dense housing and social networks in Paris result in more individuals being co-opted into the French Revolution, even if these individuals might have, on their own, are particularly enthusiastic about being revolutionaries. A third way is to highlight the privilege of membership, as in Sierra Club calendar you get for joining the organization or the inevitably canvas tote bag that public television hawks during its seemingly interminable pledge drives (see these from University of Chicago [13]).

Political Liberalism and collective intelligence

Benhenda (2010) [14] presents a model of deliberation based on Rawls’s political liberalism. The setting of the model is the following: idealized citizens deliberate in order to solve their disagreement. In their deliberations, they leave aside disputed moral views and instead, they base their arguments on premises shared by all. As a consequence, they reason impartially and similarly. However, given the complexity of the debate, they do not automatically agree: only their probability to reach the same conclusion is the same, given they share the same premises. In a second step, since their moral values were not taken into account in the discussion, citizens might need to bring them in line with their political views. Citizens repeat this two-step process until they reach unanimous agreement.

The model gives quantitative results on political deliberation under Rawlsian rules, and elaborates two arguments in favor of Rawlsian deliberation: first, deliberation is epistemically valuable when, all other things being equal, it tends to favor the better view, because in this case, deliberators settle on the better view with high probability. Second, results suggest that when citizens deliberate within the limits of Rawlsian public reason, they can reach unanimity faster than when they deliberate outside these limits.

Personal tools