How Stable Is Democracy? Suggestions from Artificial Social Networks


The structure of communication networks can be more or less “democratic”: networks are less democratic if (a) communication is more limited in terms of characteristic degree and (b) is more tightly channeled to a few specic nodes. Together those measures give us a two-dimensional landscape of more and less democratic networks. We track opinion volatility across that landscape: the extent to which random changes in a small percentage of binary opinions at network nodes result in wide changes across the network as a whole. If wide and frequent swings of popular opinion are taken as a mark of instability, democratic communication networks prove far more stable than anti-democratic ones. In the final section, we consider the democratic or anti-democratic character of networks that respond to volatility by rewiring at random, in a search for community, or in a search for a leader.

Journal On Policy and Complex Systems