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Christian List & Adrian Vermeule, Independence and Interdependence: Lessons from the Hive, 26 Rationality & Soc'y 170 (2014).

Abstract: There is a substantial class of collective decision problems whose successful solution requires interdependence among decision makers at the agenda-setting stage and independence at the stage of choice. We define this class of problems and describe and apply a search-and-decision mechanism theoretically modeled in the context of honeybees and identified in earlier empirical work in biology. The honeybees’ mechanism has useful implications for mechanism design in human institutions, including courts, legislatures, executive appointments, research and development in firms, and basic research in the sciences. Our paper offers a fresh perspective on the idea of “biomimicry” in institutional design and raises the possibility of comparative institutional analysis across species.