Abstract

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Problems in Modeling Complex Dynamic Interactions: The Political Realignment of the 1850s


Robert W. Fogel


University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

January 1993

NBER Working Paper No. h0012

Abstract:     
The aim of this paper is to break open the stochastic component of a maj or political change and to show that what seems like the product of purely chance events is the particular conjunction of processes, each of which is definable in a systematic way, that provide collectively a favorable context in which purely chance events operate. It is only in a particular context that the purely chance events became decisive in bringing about a particular political outcome. Section 1 emphasizes that Lincoln's margin of victory in 1860 was so small that anyone of numerous chance events could have resulted in his defeat. Sections 2-4 outline the intergenerational, cohort, and period changes and events that created a context favorable for the political realignment of the l850s. Section 5 describes the key chance events of 1855 -1856, the absence of any of which could have prevented the formation of a major national Republican party in 1856, as well as the chance (or at least exogenous) events of 1857-1859, the absence of which could have led to splits in the Republican party that would have insured the victory of a proslavery candidate for the Presidency in 1860. Section 6 deals with the problems and advantages of turning the theory of the political realignment of the l850s implicit in sections 2-5 into an explicit, testable mathematical model. Section 7 explains why it is impossible to produce a general theory of political realignments that would have significant predictive power.

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Date posted: November 13, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Fogel , Robert W., Problems in Modeling Complex Dynamic Interactions: The Political Realignment of the 1850s (January 1993). NBER Working Paper No. h0012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=570790

Contact Information

Robert W. Fogel (Contact Author)
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )
1101 East 58th Street
Center for Population Economics
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-7709 (Phone)
773-702-2901 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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