Modeling Macro-Politics

My first post is going to be about modeling, in particular what I feel to be the best way of modeling when it comes to macro-political issues (such as wars, democratization, state formation, etc). In both economics and political science some people think modeling macro-political questions  has no added value or makes no sense. Let me briefly describe the main reasons why I disagree. Out of the many arguments about the value of theory or a model, let me highlight two points.

First, I think the best thing about a model is that it is a cruel construct. The most fundamental purpose of a model is to test your ideas, to show whether they make sense or not. As such it forces you to specify who your actors are, what they are allowed to do and what their payoffs are. By putting this structure on your ideas, it will show you not only that sometimes what you think is an equilibrium is in fact not, but may also draw your attention to what rational actions you need to disallow for your equilibrium to hold up.

Second, I have also found that models are special in macro-politics.  My favorite models are such that they have an easy core, by which I mean that the core mechanism can be understood without math easily. In some areas writing models to describe such easily-understandable mechanisms may not make such sense, however my impression is that in macro-politics this is not the case. The reason is that macro-political events are so complex and wide-ranging that adding new variables and features will sooner or later require that the easy core around which you build these extended ideas be mathematical. So the mathematical rigor of the core allows the skyscraper of the macro model.

And now after these initial thoughts, may the blogging begin.


About politakos

Hello, my name is Akos. I am a Ph.D. student in the Political Economy and Government program at Harvard. I am originally from the world superpower called Hungary, which explains why I currently teach a sophomore tutorial on international security. More specifically, the tutorial is on game-theoretic models of war (econ 970-AL). The primary purpose of this blog is to share interesting links with my students that are connected to the material we are covering in class.
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