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Edgeryders’ Alberto Cottica has published a detailed analysis of the economics of Walkaway, at the micro-, mezzo-, and macroscale. It’s a good, crisp analysis that really captures what I was going for.

Writers are notoriously bad at knowing what they’re doing and why, and good criticism is just as interesting for writers to read as it is for readers.

The economics in Walkaway are my attempt to nail down a bunch of half-formed ideas that have been knocking around in my own thoughts for decades. Cottica’s analysis actually improves on some of what I was able to do, and was a great read.

These statements are important in Walkaway, because they dispose of methodological individualism. The reasoning works like this:

1. Most people like building things together. As long as the two elements of building and sociality are present, you do not need to obsess too much about incentives. In practice, you can blackbox individual behavior: observe what they do, then build a model in which they do it. No need to derive this behavior as the equilibrium strategy of a problem. This is a position close to behavioral economics.

2. What matters, instead, are technologies for cooperation. Groups of humans that are better at cooperating will prosper at the expense of other groups that are not as good. Groups of humans get better at cooperating by adopting systems of rules that make cooperation easier. Therefore, humans are subject to evolutionary pressure both at the individual level and at the group level, and the in the group level the pressure is cultural. This is the interpretation proposed by cultural evolution biologists like E.O. Wilson and Joseph Henrich.

3. It follows that an effective economic theory should not focus on individual behavior as an equilibrium of a set of individual incentives, but on system-level behavior as an equilibrium of interaction protocols.