January 31, 2018

Causal Logics

Causal Theory

A causal theory identifies systematic causes that operate across space and time

  • It is a kind of general knowledge
  • Patterns within complexity
  • Helps to predict
  • Helps explain specific event

An example:

Patterns?

Democracies appear to have better health

  • Better life expectancy

  • Lower infant/maternal mortality

Democracy and health

What explains this pattern?

Why does more democracy improve health?

Answering "why"

More democracy \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Voting can remove a government \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Government officials need to appease large electorate to keep office \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Governments must spend more on improving citizen health \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Better health for citizens

A Causal Logic (Mechanisms)

Causal Logic

A causal logic:

A set of statements about how or why a cause produces its effect.

Causal Logic

Details

Given a claim \(C \xrightarrow{} E\):

  • Causal logic given a causal chain that logically connects cause to the effect
  • \(C \xrightarrow{} e_1 \xrightarrow{} e_2 \xrightarrow{} e_3 \xrightarrow{} E\)

Makes additional assumptions/assertions:

  • Need to believe additional causal claims about each step in the logic
  • E.g.: do we believe this story if we don't accept \(e_2 \xrightarrow{} e_3\)

Making a causal logic

  1. Must start with cause, end with the effect
  2. Each step is logically related to the next through a causal relationship
  3. It is not a chronological list of specific events. It is a general sequence through which one things causes another

Democracy and Health

More democracy \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Voting can remove a government \(\xrightarrow{\mathbf{?}}\)

Government officials need to appease large electorate to keep office \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Governments must spend more on improving citizen health \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Better health for citizens

For "?" step to work, assume that:

  • Politicians motivated to stay in office
    • Would this step work if politicians did not care?

Democracy and Health

More democracy \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Voting can remove a government \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Government officials need to appease large electorate to keep office \(\xrightarrow{\mathbf{?}}\)

Governments must spend more on improving citizen health \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Better health for citizens

For "?" step to work, assume that:

  • Votes are cast based on health policy/outcomes
    • Would this step work if votes based on shared ethnicity? Best ads?

Democracy and Health

More democracy \(\xrightarrow{\mathbf{?}}\)

Voting can remove a government \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Government officials need to appease large electorate to keep office \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Governments must spend more on improving citizen health \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Better health for citizens

For "?" step to work, assume that:

  • Governments only changed by voting
    • would this step work if authoritarian governments can be removed by revolution/mass protest?

What goes into a Causal Logic?

Focus on actors/agents

How do actors make choices?

  • What are actors' goals?
  • What incentives do they have?
  • What resources do they lack/possess?
  • What rules/institutions must they work within?
  • What cultural norms do they follow?

How do actors form attitudes/beliefs/goals?

  • Cognitive mechanisms
  • Emotional processes
  • What information do they have?

How do organizations/collective groups "behave"

Competing Causal Logics

Wealthy countries are less likely to experience civil war. Why?

Three different logics

  1. Wealth \(\xrightarrow{}\) Larger defense budget \(\xrightarrow{}\) Rivals deterred \(\xrightarrow{}\) Less civil war
  2. Wealth \(\xrightarrow{}\) Higher standard of living \(\xrightarrow{}\) Fewer grievances \(\xrightarrow{}\) Weak support for change \(\xrightarrow{}\) Less civil war
  3. Wealth \(\xrightarrow{}\) Lots of job opportunities \(\xrightarrow{}\) Fewer listless young men \(\xrightarrow{}\) Fewer rebel recruits \(\xrightarrow{}\) Less civil war

Common Causal Logics

Overthrowing autocrats

Government oppresses citizens \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Citizens have grievances \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Desire for revolution is strong/widely shared \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Individual action does not tip the scales/ Protest is costly \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Individuals let others protest \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Insufficient protest to change regime

This is a common causal logic:

Why do individuals not take action to achieve collective goals they all share?

  • E.g.: People want to stop climate change, but don't cut carbon footprint

Collective Action Problems

When:

  • Success depends on cooperation
  • Individual action is costly
  • Everyone benefits from success regardless of whether they participate

Then:

  • Rational to NOT contribute
  • Individuals will not work towards goal they all share
  • "Tragedy of the Commons": In no one's individual interest to work toward collective goal preferred by all

Collective Action Problems

Helps us explain:

  • Why consumer groups weaker than business/corporate groups

  • Nations fail to take action on climate change

  • Global fishery populations in jeopardy

  • Why deeply unpopular governments go unchallenged

  • Dorm rooms / shared flats are messy.

Common Causal Logics

Markets

Competition and learning lead to efficiency

  • Better products beat out worse products
  • Better parties/candidates defeat worse
  • Mistakes corrected by learning

But keyboards:

1873

But keyboards:

1936

Path Dependence:

Silly keyboard due to time-specific tech problem \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Lots of firms buy silly keyboard \(\xrightarrow{}\)

Lots of typists learn silly keyboard \(\xrightarrow{}\)

NEW, BETTER KEYBOARD (1936)

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Still sensible for firms to buy silly keyboard

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Still more sensible for typists to learn silly typing

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Stuck with silly keyboard

Path Dependence:

Contribution pension system started (pay in $, get out $)

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Workers pay in contributions

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Workers accumulate "earned"/entitlement benefits

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Workers save less privately for retirement

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Cutting pension benefits is politically risky

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Pension system intact, even with conservative government

Path Dependence

Policy implemented, institution created, product introduced

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Actors use and adapt to policy, institution, product

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Given adaptation, less costly to stick with status quo than change

\(\xrightarrow{}\) Stability of original arrangement in face of challenges, better options

Self-reinforcing logic over time.

Economic perceptions:

Huh?