Complex Systems

Cooperation, Punishment, Emergence of Government, and the Tragedy of Authorities Download PDF

R. Vilela Mendes
CMAF, Instituto de Investigação Interdisciplinar
Av. Gama Pinto 2, 1649-003 Lisboa, Portugal
IPFN, Instituto Superior Técnico
Av. Rovisco Pais 1, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal

Carlos Aguirre
Escuela Politécnica Superior
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Campus de Cantoblanco
Ctra de Colmenar Km 16, 28049 Madrid, Spain


Under the conditions prevalent in the late Pleistocene epoch (small hunter-gatherer groups and frequent inter-group conflicts), coevolution of gene-related behavior and culturally transmitted group-level institutions provides a plausible explanation for the parochial altruistic and reciprocator traits of most modern humans. When, with the agricultural revolution, societies became larger and more complex, the collective nature of the monitoring and punishment of norm violators was no longer effective. This led to the emergence of new institutions of governance and social hierarchies. The transition from an egalitarian society and the acceptance of the new institutions may have been possible only if, in the majority of the population, the reciprocator trait had become an internalized norm. However, the new ruling class has its own dynamics, which in turn may lead to a new social crisis. Using a simple model inspired by previous work by Bowles and Gintis, these effects are studied here.