Advertisement

International Journal of Game Theory

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 71–90 | Cite as

Memetics and voting: how nature may make us public spirited

  • John P. Conley
  • Ali Toossi
  • Myrna WoodersEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

We consider the classic puzzle of why people turn out for elections in substantial numbers even though formal analysis strongly suggests that rational agents would not vote. If one assumes that voters do not make systematic mistakes, the most plausible explanation seems to be that agents receive a warm glow from the act of voting itself. However, this begs the question of why agents feel a warm glow from participating in the electoral process in the first place. We approach this question from a memetic standpoint. More specifically, we consider a model in which social norms, ideas, values, or more generally, “memes”, influence the behavior of groups of agents, and in turn, induce a kind of competition between value systems. We show, for a range of situations, that groups with a more public-spirited social norm have an advantage over groups that are not as public-spirited. We also explore conditions under which the altruistic behavior resulting from public-spiritedness is disadvantageous. The details depend on the costs of voting, the extent to which different types of citizens agree or disagree over the benefits of various public policies, and the relative proportions of various preference types in the population. We conclude that memetic evolution over social norms may be a force that causes individuals to internalize the benefits that their actions confer on others.

Keywords

Public Choice Evolutionary Game High Type Stable Steady State Winning Coalition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aldrich JH (1997) When is it rational to vote. In: Muller DC (eds) Perspectives on public choice, Chap 17. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreoni J (1990) Impure altruism and donations to public choice: a theory of warm-glow giving. Econ J 100:464–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andreoni J (1995) Warm-glow versus cold-prickle: the effects of positive and negative framing on cooperation in experiments. Q J Econ 1–21Google Scholar
  4. Becker G (1976) Altruism, egoism, and genetic fitness: economics and sociobiology. J Econ Liter 14:817–826Google Scholar
  5. Bergstrom TC, Stark O (1993) How can altruism prevail in an evolutionary environment. Am Econ Rev 83:149–155Google Scholar
  6. Bester H, Guth W (1998) Is altruism evolutionarily stable? J Econ Behav Organization 34:193–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blackmore S (1999) The meme machine Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  8. Bolle F (2000) Is altruism evolutionarily stable? And envy and malevolence? Remarks on Bester and Guth. J Econ Behav Organization 42:131–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conley J, Temimi A (2001) Endogenous enfranchisement when groups’ preferences conflict. J Polit Econ 109:79–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Conley JP, Toossi A, Wooders M (2005) Memetics and voting: how nature may make us public spirited. Working paper 0514, Department of Economics, Vanderbilt UniversityGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawkins R (1976) The selfish gene Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  12. DeMichelis S, Dhillon A (2001) Learning in elections and voter turnout equilibria. ManuscriptGoogle Scholar
  13. Downs A, (1957) An economic theory of democracy. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Eshel I, Samuelson L, Shaked A (1998) Altruists, egoists, and hooligans in a local interaction model. Am Econ Rev 88:157–179Google Scholar
  15. Ferejohn JA, Fiorina MP (1974) The paradox of not voting: a decision theoretic analysis. Am Polit Sci Rev 68:525–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Friedman D (1991) Evolutionary games in economics. Econometrica 637–666Google Scholar
  17. Fudenberg D, Levine DK (1998) The theory of learning in games. The MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  18. Green DP, Shapiro I (1994) Pathologies of rational choice theory: a critique of applications in political science. Yale University PressGoogle Scholar
  19. Harbaugh W (1996) If people vote because they like to, then why do so many of them lie? Public Choice 89:63–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hirshleifer J (1977) Economics from a biological viewpoint. J Law Econ 20:1–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hirshleifer J (1978) Natural economics versus political economy. J Soc Biolo Struct 20:1–52Google Scholar
  22. Kan K, Yang CC (2001) On expressive voting: evidence from the 1988 US Presidential Election. Public Choice, 108:295–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kandori M, Mailath G, Rob R (1993) Learnings, mutation, and long run equilibria in games. Econometrica 61:29–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lagunoff R (2000) On the evolution of pareto optimal behavior in repeated coordination problems. Int Econ Rev 41:273–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ledyard JO (1981) The paradox of voting and candidate competition: a general equilibrium analysis. In: Horwich G, Quirk J (eds) Essays in contemporary fields of economics. Purdue University Press, West LafayetteGoogle Scholar
  26. Ledyard JO (1984) The pure theory of large two-candidate elections. Public Choice 44:7–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Muller DC (1989) Public choice II: a revised edition of public choice. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  28. Palfrey TR, Rosenthal H (1983) A strategic calculus of voting. Public Choice 41:7–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Palfrey TR, Rosenthal H (1985) Voter participation and voter uncertainty. Am Polit Sci Rev 79:62–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Possajennikov A (2000) On the evolutionary stability of altruistic and spiteful preferences. J Econ Behav Organization 42:125–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reiter S (2001) Interdependent preferences and groups of agents. J Econo Theory 3:27–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Riker WH, Ordeshook PC (1968) A theory of the calculus of voting. Am Polit Sci Rev 62:25–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Robson A (1996) A biological basis for expected and non-expected utility theory. J Econ Theory 68:397–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Robson A (2001) The biological basis for economic behavior. J Econ Literature 39:11–33Google Scholar
  35. Smith JM Price GR (1973) The logic of animal conflict. Nature 246:15–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Taylor PD, Jonker LB, (1978) Evolutionary stable strategies and game dynamics. Math Biosci 145–156Google Scholar
  37. Tullock G (1967) Towards a mathematics of Politics. University of Michigan Press, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  38. Weibull JW (1997) Evolutionary game theory. The MIT PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.University of IllinoisUrbana-ChampaignUSA

Personalised recommendations