Any Time is Trinidad Time

By Morgan Ramkallawan

Informal institutions shape formal institutions in ways such as creating or strengthening incentives to comply with formal rules. Helmke defines informal institutions as socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels. There are four types of informal institutions; the focus in this blog post will be on competing informal institutions. This occurs when informal institutions coexist with ineffective formal institutions: in such cases, the fact that the formal rules and procedures are not enforced permits actors to disregard them. Informal institutions can promote this behaviour.

An example of this is the concept of Trinidad time, culturally and even globally known as the inability of Trinbagonians to be punctual in almost every circumstance. Although Helmke distinguishes that informal institutions are not culture, “Trini time” is far more than culture, in certain situations arriving on time can lead to social exclusion. It is so heavily indoctrinated within the society, in almost every situation individuals are late and are expected to be late; for parliament, court cases, and even informal social gatherings. This is because, although the formal institutions are formed which include punishments for violations, i.e. code of conduct and therefore warnings for tardiness, it is hardly ever enforced. Specifically, with employers and employees recognizing that individuals would not arrive on time, there is an inadequacy of punishments for those who do not comply with these formal institutions, which has affected the productive capabilities of the twin island nation.

Projects end up taking a much longer period of construction given that deadlines cannot be met on time, thereby transaction costs rise, or in some circumstances, due to the competing informal institutions, some projects are outsourced to foreign labourers. Similar to a cycle, the absence of enforcement promotes the informal institution, the acceptance of tardiness overall preserves an ineffective formal institution. As the famous Lord Kitchener sang, “they tell you eight…they come half past late”.

Would You Call Your Friend To Let Them Know You Will Be Late for Dinner?

By Anniek Barnhoorn

You and your friend made dinner reservations for tonight in Amsterdam, but because you were studying all day, you lost track of time and will now be an hour late. Would you call your friend to let them know you will be late for dinner?  

The majority of you would most likely call your friend as it is seen as a sign of politeness and respect. Nor would you want your friend to be waiting for you at the restaurant for an hour wondering if you stood them up. But what if you would not call? There are a host of reasons for this, but that is not what is important in this case. What is important is the consequence of not calling, as there would be social implications from your behaviour. Perhaps resulting in your friend leaving the restaurant after half an hour and cancel on tonight’s plans, or waiting in the restaurant and then giving you a long lecture during dinner ruining the mood. Because of social norms and in anticipation of the implications, it is best to call your friend to let them know you will be late. 

Hence, because your decision is guided by social norms of behaviour and is not a formally written rule, it illustrates an informal institution. Helmke and Levitsky (2004) define informal institutions as socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated, and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels. They then clarify that informal institutions are not weak institutions, informal behavioral regularities, informal organizations, nor culture.

We are confronted with informal institutions every day, whether on the street, on public transportation or in elevators. These institutions are however not the same for everyone so should not be generalized, as they vary amongst countries and cultures as well as groups and societies. 

Informal Institutions: Child Labour

By Damini Sitaram

Helmke and Levitsky (2004) discuss how the importance of informal institutions has been marginalized due to the focus on formal institutions. Formal institutions are easier to observe as they are enforced through official channels and are not ambiguous in language. Informal institutions are difficult; as there are no official channels to enforce them, they are often unwritten and ambiguous, and there is no objective point of origin, it is difficult to categorize an ‘informal institution’. Helmke and Levitsky describe how in some cases, similar situations and formal institutions can lead to two different outcomes due to informal institutions. An example of this is the child labour law.

Laws banning child labour are universal, and many countries have legislation that prohibits the use of minors for hard labour. However, when doing a comparative case study, it is often so that the enforcement in one case is more successful than the other. In Bangladesh, children often work in exploitative conditions, whereas in France, there is little to no risk of child labour and them being exploited.

Even though the legislation, the formal rule that child labour is illegal, the outcomes are different in Bangladesh and France. This might be due to the informal institutions: living in a poor country, Bangladeshis find it normal for every household member to have a job, including children. The French, living in a developed country, have placed emphasis on the child’s right to education.  

Sending children to work is an informal institution, as it is often induced from the social environment whether it is accepted or not. It is not pursued through official channels and is ambiguous, and therefore, in each case, has a different effect on the formal institution and changes the outcome. 

The limits of the Crown

By Siert van Kemenade

In the Netherlands, municipal majors are not directly elected, but appointed by the Crown (the King + Minister of Internal Affairs) on recommendation of the municipal council. The composition of the municipal council is determined via municipal elections. Legally seen, anybody could apply for a major position, but only 2 of the 335 majors in The Netherlands do not have any party affiliation. This makes being a major part of political life.

In addition, there is also no formal institution prohibiting the Crown to reject the person recommended by the Municipal council. More precisely, a municipal council deals with a King’s commissioner to discuss potential candidates that could receive recommendation from the council. After that, the commissioner takes the recommendation to the King for him to sign. Here, the King could theoretically just say no. This would greatly influence his power over municipal policy making, allowing him to effectively control urban life.

Yet in reality, such a rejection is highly unusual, due to an informal institution that limits the role the King has in the Dutch government.  Its result is the compliance of the King with whatever Dutch representatives agree upon, without formal enforcement. The informal institution was a causal effect of a principle in the constitution, making the King inviolable and the ministers responsible for everything he does. Whereas the ministerial responsibility is a formal institution, it lead to an informal institutional conversion of the assumed behavior of the King in government. Without it, the country would be ungovernable, leaving everyone worse off.  The inviolability of the King, which practice lead him to have some influence over procedural matters and a publicly paid salary, make this a preferable outcome for him as well. This informal institution explains the King’s behavior in appointing majors. 

Democratization in Morocco: Decentralization or Redistribution of Power?

By Sidi El Baroudi

Informal rules in political contexts are bound to be confusing, especially when considering institutions within the context of a democratizing country. Let’s take the Moroccan monarchy as an example. Moroccan culture specifically has a rich history concerning informal rules dominating institutions, exemplified by Douglas North’s frequent mentioning of the informality surrounding North African bazars called suqs in his book Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. As defined by Helmke and Levitsky, informal institutions are “socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated, and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels”. Even though this detailed definition provides a versatile starting point for balanced discussions on informal institutions, it is still vague enough to be confusing. Cases in which informal rules are created by the elimination of written formal rules, show a shortcoming in the abovementioned definition.

For example, constitutional reforms resulting from the Arab Spring forced Moroccan King Mohammed VI (M6) to give the democratically chosen representatives in the cabinet more power. Nevertheless, these politicians feel the urge to shy away from sensitive topics that technically fall under their responsibility since the reforms. This political “anxiety” for sensitive matters that used to fall under monarchical rule is exemplified in the case of royal taxi permits in the kingdom. Regulation of the taxi market was assigned to the ministry of transport after the constitutional reforms. However, elected politicians did not feel confident enough to use their newly acquired constitutional rights and amend the royal dominance – the king decides who gets how many taxi licenses – in this market.

So, is the rule underwriting royal dominance socially shared and unwritten? Yes! But, is it also created and communicated outside official channels? No. In fact, just a few years ago it was an official rule. This example shows that this definition of informal rules does not apply to characteristic processes of democratization, in which officially created undemocratic rules persist after their abolishment.

Informal Institutions Undermining Women Emancipation Through Micro-Credit

By Leanne Zeppenfeldt

In the past decades, development efforts have increasingly been focused on women emancipation and gender equality, as girls and women constitute 70% of the people living in poverty worldwide. The emancipation of women would not only benefit them, but their emancipation would spur development throughout their societies.  

Many projects, often funded by important international institutions (IMF, World Bank, UN) have aimed to empower women by giving them access to funding or micro-credit to enable them to develop their own enterprise. Usually, rules and requirements for participating in these development aid projects are well established and formalized, in order to make sure the money ends up where it was intended: with the women. Unfortunately, designers often ignored or were unaware of informal institutions and power dynamics that greatly impacted the outcome of their implemented aid efforts.

For example, in several developing countries an informal institution exists that “requires men” to be in charge of the entire household income. While most development programs monitor whether the microcredit gets spent on actual enterprise development, few are able to monitor what happens with the income generated afterwards. As a result, the informal institution mentioned above might result in all the income flowing to the male head of the household, which is in great contradiction with the formalized rules of the development project. That is, the informal institution results in a divergent outcome from the intended outcome of the formal institutions, since these are ineffectively implemented. What results is an informal institution that competes with the formal ones and results in a failed effort to emancipate women in developing countries. In short, informal institutions should be incorporated in the design of development aid programs if we want to prevent our development money going to waste, or in the worst case, making things worse.  

Can Rightful Resistance Ever Cause Change in China?

By Corneill Spaapen

Throughout the 1980s, rural China went through some mass changes at the bottom end of society, with “rightful resistance” being an important part of creating some form of grassroots democracy in a country which has been dominated by one party for so long. However, it is difficult to envision this bottom up form of democracy ever going beyond the local level of governance, especially without any forms of violence.

O’Brien & Li give the theory of rightful resistance four main attributes: it operates close to the boundary of authorized channels; uses the power of rhetoric; uses the obligations of the powerful to reduce control (which is related to exploiting divisions within the state) and relies on rallying support from the people. What is distinctive about rightful resistance is the legitimacy of it – by sticking to the existing framework and not using violence, it is hard for political elites to discredit these movements. However, it is hard to see them maintaining this degree of legitimacy and causing any kind of change beyond local officials. Anything that goes above this, is met with brutal force and crackdowns to prevent this democracy from spreading.

An example of this is the city of Wukan. They elected their village chief in 2012, which was widely hailed at the time as a breakthrough for the grassroots democracy – he led the line against corrupt local authorities who had illegally seized and lined their pockets with the proceeds of selling it. The response of over a thousand police officers equipped with tear gas and rubber bullets blockading the village quickly found the chief, and arrested him. One villager even said that “it felt like we were pieces of tofu, beaten and smashed.”

Whilst this is only one example, it is hard for to envision rightful resistance causing changes beyond the implementation of grassroots democracy, especially the case in China. It may facilitate the beginning of a movement, but may never reach the full-blown levels of a revolution.

Exploring the Boundaries of Rightful Resistance Through The Urgenda Court Case

By Dieneke de Weerd

O’Brien defines rightful resistance as a peaceful form of protest in which citizens use laws, policies and other officially promoted values in innovative ways in order to demand rights offered at the center. This blog post demonstrates the limits of the applicability of the concept rightful resistance by looking at the Urgenda case.  

Rightful resistance relies upon support from the public. In the Urgenda case Urgenda filed the case against the state together with 886 individuals to demand more climate action to be taken. Furthermore, the resistance was peaceful as they used official means to make the state accountable for their actions. During the court case Urgenda mainly focused upon human rights and the duty of care that the Dutch State adheres to. Thus, Urgenda used existing laws in innovative way to hold Dutch government accountable.

Even though the Urgenda court case resembles rightful resistance the boundaries of this concept cannot be stretched this far, as some essential elements are missing. Firstly, the Urgenda case did not locate and exploit divisions within the state. Secondly, the Urgenda foundation can be seen as a form of sustained resistance rather than episodic resistance. Lastly, while O’Brien does not explicitly exclude rightful resistance in form of court cases, his examples suggest that rightful resistance does not include court cases. It seems that the concept refers to resistance where there are protective mechanisms for the rightful resister but where there is no direct accountability, such as an effective judicial system, in place yet.  

At first the concept rightful resistance seems to fit most cases where the public holds the government accountable for their actions with peaceful means and through the usage of existing laws and values. However, the Urgenda case demonstrates that the term rightful resistance has stricter boundaries and actually has limited applicability 


Self-destructive institutions

By Jurre Honkoop

After the battle of the parliamentary system in the Netherlands 1866-1868 census suffrage became standard. Liberals were known to have the most assets and thus became the dominant player in Dutch politics. I will set out to explain how the liberals lost this dominant position using a power-distributional perspective.

When the liberals gained their dominant position they set out to implement liberal policies. With the renewed freedoms, minorities could emancipate more into society and could start participating in politics through this emancipation and enhanced wealth. As Thelen (2004) states, dominant actors will want to continue their dominance; however, they rely on active mobilization of political support. Shifts in the balance of power can then be an important driver of change. Whereas the liberals did a good job in pushing through their desired policy, in the policy-making process they created an organized opposition. The balance of power then shifted in favor of the opposition. Resource allocations from one set of institutions can largely influence resource allocations in others. In this case the shift in the societal emancipation then seeped through into other sets of institutions such as the electoral system and the educational system. Confessional parties for example set out to get funding for religious schools and managed to get their way through coalition forming. Furthermore eventually the non-liberals managed to transform the electoral system even more in their favor.

The liberal party by implementing a set of liberal policies thus created an opportunity for minorities to participate in politics. The liberals could not find enough political support against their new political opposition to stay the dominant actor. Resource allocations in the one system seeped through into other institutional systems and further deteriorated the dominant position.

An examination of the conceptualization of endogenous change

By Elize Kaulina

Explaining the mechanics of endogenous change has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks of institutional analysts, who have sought to attribute the cause of an observed change of an institutional framework to a choice of the individuals operating within its constraints. This poses a paradox for the investigators, as the purpose of an institutional framework is to provide certainty and stability to repeated interactions between a set groups of individuals. The configuration of the framework originates from repeated exchanges, with the outcomes over time representing the various positions of the institutional equilibria.

The choice of an individual depends on his preferences (interests) and beliefs (knowledge about the environment), which determine the utility he (believes) to have from any possible outcome; consequently, having observed the resolutions of exchanges, institutional theorists have attempted to infer and model the potential expected utility models of the actors involved, in terms of the potential constraints to their exchange, responsible for yielding the observed outcomes. With the actors remaining the same, institutional theorists have been able to attribute the change in institutional equilibria to external factors, which alter the belief systems of said individuals by providing them with new information, changing the “tools” they possess for pursuing their interests; the next exchange between the individuals already takes place in the new institutional framework.

The mechanisms through which exogenous factors can alter the outcomes of exchange in an institutional framework is relatively easily conceptualized, and seldom contested by institutional theorists. On the other hand, endogenous change would require that a repeated exchange between individuals would have different outcomes despite no new information altering the beliefs of the actors involved; consequently, endogenous change would have to originate from a change in the preferences of one of the individuals. Unfortunately, whereas Expected Utility Theory roots the beliefs of an individual in the knowledge he has, which in theory is easily attributable to “information available”, the origins of an individual’s preferences are far more complex, perhaps providing a key insight into the difficulties institutional theory in conceptualizing the sources of endogenous change in practice. 

Suffrage in the Netherlands: endogenous change?

By Victoria Isabella Cornelia Smit

Similar to the rest of the world, the Netherlands has not always had universal suffrage. Even though there were organizations that promoted universal suffrage, it was not until 1919 that women were allowed to vote (Bos, 2000), and only in 1922 that they were automatically given their ballot. But even prior to the law changes and to the organizations, there was a change that made voting explicitly for men only. In this blogpost I want to draw attention to the institutional change in 1887: when the law (Kieswet) was explicitly excluding women (, 2016).

For the story of layering we need illustrate one story: that of Aletta Jacobs. She was a feminist who had attended university, as one of the first females in the Netherlands (, 2013). After her studies she worked as a doctor.

It was 1883, and the law stated that every person who was sound of mind and financially independent and earned more than a certain threshold in taxes could vote (, 2016). As a doctor, Jacobs fit all these criteria, unlike other women in the Netherlands. She had - in theory - become a beneficiary of the law, rather than being excluded from voting like most women. So she wrote a letter to the mayor of Amsterdam requesting her ballot. Unfortunately, it became a legal battle that ended up at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (, 2016).

The battle was essentially about the ambiguity of the law that prior to this change did not prohibit women from voting. It would be interesting to examine the role of Jacobs as a subversive: she tried to use the system to change it, but the Supreme Court and lawmakers disagreed enough to become strong veto points and layer the institution to fit their preferences. 

The Consequences of the four pests campaign

By Rachel Knibbe

 In Pierson's book Politics in Time, he describes the limits of institutional design. These limitations have implications for theories of institutional origins and change. On of the problems is that political actors usually have short-time horizons, while their actions have short and long-term effects. The institutions are not designed in a way that the long-term outcomes that are produced are functional due to short-term political reasons.

The four pests campaign of Mao illustrates this limit to institutional design. During the Great Leap Forward he introduced a new hygiene initiative, which targeted sparrows. Sparrows were considered a pest since they ate all the grain of the land, which was need by the farmers. Mao implemented a policy that ordered the entire sparrow population to be culled so the crops could not no longer be damaged. Moreover, the sparrows did not only eat crops, they also ate grasshoppers. Due to the culling of the sparrows, grasshoppers were no longer eaten. Consequently, they ate all the crops. This can be seen as a long-term effect, due to the culling of the majority of the sparrows, the grasshoppers stayed dominant. This had an unintended effect, which was starvation of the population.

Mao had a small time horizon, by implementing the culling of sparrows he only considered the effects it would have on the grain. However, it turned out that the long-term consequences had a more negative effect than the original situation. This is an unintended long-term consequence and this is due to the social complexity that creates interaction effects.

Hence, when designing institutions there will always be some sort of uncertainty may it be long-term effect or interaction effects. This means that corrections need to be implemented in reaction to these effects. This can only be done when thinking of institutional development as a process unfolding over time.

The Washington Consensus: Duflo’s Warning Exemplified?

By Jan Minke Contreras

In Poor Economics, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee make a cutting statement: “even the most well-thought-out policies may not have an impact if they are not implemented correctly”. They draw a distinct line between policies and politics and exposes how the latter can affect the implementation certain policies. This blogpost will exemplify such scenario with the implementation of the Washington Consensus (WC) in Latin America during the 1980’s. Latin America was immersed in a severe debt crisis. Governments were defaulting on payments owed to the IMF and the United States. Convinced there was a huge problem, policy-makers from Washington and the IMF decided to draft a 10-point policy document that Latin American countries must follow if they wished to borrow more money in the future. The policies were supposedly also designed to stimulate growth in the region. 

As well-intentioned the idea might sound, the implementation of the WC had disastrous effects in many parts of Latin America. Ecuador was one of these countries. With the hopes of being able to pay off its debts to the IMF, Ecuador had no other option but to implement the WC. However, the implementation of these policies had horrendous consequences on the Ecuadorean economy. One of the 10 policies, for example, stipulated that government-owned companies should be privatised. When Ecuador did this, numerous politicians sold the companies to themselves, retaining control of vital sectors like energy or telecommunications. These, now private companies, went bankrupt because of the high corruption levels amongst the “new owners” and because of faulty allocation of funds. Ecuador saw such results from the WC implementation because, as Duflo mentions, the WC was unable to “sort out the political process” before actually implementing the policies.  The moral: policy should never be taken out of the political context. 

Actor-centered or Societal Functionalism: The Surinamese Amnesty Law

By Damini Sitaram

Pierson (2011) explains that there are two ways of understanding institutions, namely actor-centered functionalism and societal functionalism. Actor-centered functionalism is based on the behaviour of rational individuals, whereas societal functionalism states that particular institutions are solutions to certain societal problems. However, with each institution, it is very hard to distinguish what type of functionalism it fits best. The extension of the amnesty law in Suriname in 2012 is an example.

In the power vacuum caused by Suriname’s independence from the Dutch since 1975, Desire Bouterse, the commanding officer of the Surinamese army, staged a coup in 1980. Under his military dictatorship, the infamous December murders of 1982 happened, for which Bouterse allegedly gave the command. From 1986 to 1992, a civil war erupted between Bouterse and Ronnie Brunswijk, during which both of them established their own political parties. Bouterse himself was elected president in 2010, currently fulfilling his second term.

The law of 1992, which extends amnesty to those involved in the civil war, was originally enacted by Parliament to help heal the country. Instead of being tried in court, it allowed Bouterse and Brunswijk, two powerful men, to work together and rise to power.

In 2012, Bouterse’s own party voted for the extension of the law to include atrocities committed from 1980 to 1985 and thus also the December murders. This resulted in national as well as diplomatic immunity for Bouterse, further strengthening his power.

The amnesty law was framed as a societal solution, but could never have been passed without the support of those who benefitted from it, such as Bouterse, while also strengthening them; the circle is closed. Unintended consequence or not, it remains difficult to clearly distinguish between societal and actor-centered functionalism in this case.

Melting Point: Gladwell’s Tipping Point in Climate Science

By Rachel Newstadt

The idea of a “tipping point,” as explained by Malcolm Gladwell, is a relatively simple one: change in a system builds slowly, then reaches a certain level, the tipping point, and change is then sudden and dramatic. He further explains his theory with characteristics of these tipping points, which include: there are a certain few who can have disproportionate impacts on the change, and the context in which the change is happening matters. This idea is an elaboration of a type of gradual change explained by Paul Pierson: threshold effects, in which forces generate incremental changes until reaching a critical level, triggering “major changes” (Pierson 86).

An example of a process that is argued to have a tipping point is climate change: as the earth warms, it will reach certain tipping points, and going over these thresholds of global temperature will lead to massive changes in the world as we know it. A number of authors have argued that tipping points are clear throughout environmental science, but a particularly relevant study was one done by Tim Lenton of the University of Exeter, discussing ice melt and sea level rise. Lenton discusses the role that the melting of various ice sheets will impact the future, leading to more melting ice, and, eventually a tipping point, beyond which the entire ice sheet will be forever lost, significantly raising sea levels. A few ice sheets he examines (the Arctic, and Greenland ice sheets, the Yedoma Permafrost) are examples of the “certain few” with a disproportionate impact referred to by Gladwell. Additionally, the context -- other contributors to sea melt (ozone holes, etc) -- will contribute to these changes. Climate science is incredibly complicated, but ice melt and sea level rise is a clear example of an aspect of this science with a tipping point. 

China’s one-child policy: changing slow-moving causes?

By Victoria Isabella Cornelia Smit

In Pierson (2004) we saw a distinction between types of slow-moving causal processes: the incremental model, the threshold model and the causal chain model. In this blogpost, I attempt to explain how the one-child policy from China before 2015  could impact all these three models when applied to various variables.

Within this blogpost I assume that the one-child policy applies to everyone and that it was reinforced strictly, in other words, I assume the intended consequences are to control population growth.

Cumulative causes

Pierson called demography an “excellent example” of a cumulative cause that creates slow-moving outcomes. One example of a demographic cause is the population growth. Given the rapid-population growth pre-one-child policy, if we see this as incremental we could imagine a “slope”. The one-child policy would change the slope of the cause - it would make sure the slow-moving cause would be even slower.

Threshold models

Thresholds are a model in which the slow-moving cause has no effect until it reaches a certain critical level, and then has strong self-reinforcing character. If we again assume population growth is the slow-moving cause for whichever threshold, and if all the assumptions for the policy hold, the threshold would be reached later.

Causal chains

In the causal chain model chains lead to certain outcomes if closely linked. One example given in Pierson was family planning in Iraq, and how this could be viewed in a political process. Reasoning by analogy, the one-child policy can be viewed as a very invasive policy for family planning. Thus we can look at the one-child policy similar to that of family planning in Iraq, which has already been explored.

In conclusion, it is perhaps not the causal chains that are providing an interesting research agenda, rather, we could look at the cumulative causes and threshold models. Of course this blogpost is limited, especially the assumptions are constraining (there were many exceptions to the one-child policy). Nonetheless, it is interesting to think about these policies and their impact on the grand models. 

Some Causal Processes of Video Virality

By Ema Rivas Leal

In Politics in Time, Pierson introduces a few mechanisms to think about the longevity of a causal process and its outcome. With this example of video virality, I hope to illustrate some of these mechanisms.

We will consider a video as viral if it hits around 5 million views within a few weeks. Taking video virality as the outcome, then, we should begin with the cause, the posting itself. Imagine a normal person posts a video. Hopefully, someone sees it, likes it and shares it. Resulting from this new share, someone else decides to share it, again increasing the potential viewers and sharers, and so on. In this way, we could think of a causal chain where the posting of the video (x) directly yields video virality (y) provided that x effectively initiates a sharing sequence. Since the odds are probably against the initial rounds of sharing, x and y may be temporally separated, making the causal chain difficult to establish. This implies that x initiating the sequence is not enough to guarantee outcome y.

Yet, if we consider the concept of threshold effects, the outcome could be ‘guaranteed’ sometimes. If we think that once a video has been shared a certain amount of times, the possibility of it being further shared a few million times in a short period of time becomes substantially heightened, then the process would involve a threshold. Furthermore, if it could be established that there was a critical moment when some famous person decided to share the post, immediately propelling the video close to or over the threshold, the process becomes analogous to Gladwell’s description of the tipping point. At the point where the famous person comes in, we could even identify some structural determination. Depending on this person’s level of popularity, their share could immediately make the sequence surpass the threshold, guaranteeing video virality. Finally, throughout the entire process positive feedback can be discerned, provided that sharing generates further sharing.

To Have Children Now, or Later, That’s the Question: Sequencing of Life Decisions

By Leanne Zeppenfeldt

Many young women face the choice whether they want to have children before, during, or after they study and start their career. While all choices are valid, they will most likely influence the life and career of women. 

Namely, if woman A decides to have children during her studies, she is probably delayed in her studies due to the delivery and the time her children take up. Furthermore, money is likely to be an issue. However, as woman A starts working, she is less likely to be stalled in her career by pregnancy/discrimination.

Woman B decides to have children after she finished her studies. While she is not affected by her children during her studies, they will affect/delay her career. Nevertheless, money might be more affluent due to her increased availability to work, but saving and building capital might remain difficult, as she is less likely to get promotion(s) and move forward in her career.

Lastly, woman C decides to have children when she is already advanced in her career, partly due to her ability to devote more time to her career, as family life was not a ‘distraction’. While this probably resulted in more available capital, age and pregnancy (leave) might influence her ability to have children and her ability to advance further in her career afterwards.

Hence, what becomes apparent from the comparison above is that the sequencing of the ‘events’ of studying, investing in one’s career, and having children is significant to the outcome (career/capital/family). Furthermore, as the comparison of woman B and C illustrates, it is not only the sequence that matters, but also the relative timing of events. Other factors will obviously also play a role in determining the outcome, but in identical situations the sequence of events can explain a lot of the variation of outcomes. 

The importance of sequencing and self-reinforcing processes to understand success of Bill Gates with Microsoft

By Dieneke de Weerd

Chapter two of Pierson's book explains the importance of sequencing to understand today’s outcomes. This blog post argues that Bill Gates’ success with the development of Microsoft depended largely upon the particular event sequence prior to 1975 and is thus an example of the first-mover advantage.

Gladwell demonstrates that opportunities presented to Gates at an early age drastically impacted his ability consolidate his position within computer software industry. The three most important events resulting in this particular outcome are: early access to computer, opportunity to have learning hours, and the introduction of personal computers in 1975. Mahoney's event sequence applies here as alterations in temporal ordering of these three events could have produced drastically different outcomes. Especially differences in timing of personal computers could have made Gates too inexperienced or already caught up with another job to utilize competitive advantages of first mover.

Gates’ ability to become successful is related the self-reinforcing character of his first mover advantage. The first mover in a new market has advantage over its actual or potential rivals to capture market shares. Self-reinforcing processes indicate the growing benefits of this specific advantage. As first mover Microsoft could easily capture large market shares and stay ahead of rivals. By 1975, Gates had been programming for seven years, which gave him extraordinary experience and knowledge. This made set-up costs for rivals entering the market extremely high, as rivals could not easily catch up with Gates’ amount of learning hours. After the consolidation of Microsoft other self-reinforcing processes, such as learning effect and coordination effect, stimulated enduring superiority of Microsoft.

In conclusion, the exact event sequence prior to 1975 enabled Gates to be flexible and experienced enough to utilize his first-mover advantage. Gates could become the pioneer and remain successful because of the self-reinforcing processes linked to his first mover advantage.

Sequencing in LUC course allocation

By Jurre Honkoop

In this blogpost I will look at sequencing and positive/negative feedback mechanisms in LUC course selection. As we see in LUC course selection, course administrators have agenda setting power over which courses they allocate to whom. Game theoretic analysis however, would arguably be hard since (hopefully) course administrators do not let their personal favorites take precedence over others. Furthermore the order in which proposals are considered matters. Although the courses are not allocated on a first-come first-serve basis, if administrators starts allocating from the top of his screen of he might be biased to first-comers. Paths of allocation are thus not selections, but they unfold. 

A course allocation in one block might prohibit you from taking an entire track in the future. This is for example true if 200 courses are only taught once a year and you do not get this course in year 3. You are thus bound by one allocation in the next ones, resulting in a positive feedback loop. Courses in tracks in which you have already followed a course are more appealing since for this track you fulfilled prerequisites for other courses.   

As stated before, I hope that administrators do not let their personal preferences influence his decision making, however even if they did, they would not have full power to do so. Rules of precedence are set. People that “won” in first rounds of course allocation are on schedule for finishing their major successfully and do not “need” specific courses. However, people that did not plan or were unlucky do need such courses. In this case the latter group gets precedence. People that won in the first rounds are thus caught in a negative feedback loop, as the rules try to spread out evenly the “luck factor” over students.