I hate to publicize this sort of thing, but two different people forwarded it to me, so I thought I should comment. It’s a paper by Peter Klimek, Rudolf Hanel, and Stefan Thurner:
The quality of governance of institutions, corporations and countries depends on the ability of efficient decision making within the respective boards or cabinets. Opinion formation processes within groups are size dependent. It is often argued – as now e.g. in the discussion of the future size of the European Commission – that decision making bodies of a size beyond 20 become strongly inefficient. We report empirical evidence that the performance of national governments declines with increasing membership and undergoes a qualitative change in behavior at a particular group size.
I admire the goal of doing empirical analysis, and the graphs are great, but I agree with the Arxiv blogger that their mathematical model of “a critical value of around 19-20 members” is “somewhat unconvincing” (except that I’d remove the “somewhat”). Do people really believe this sort of thing? It seems like numerology to me.
The problem with counting countries
Another problem, to my mind, is the reference to the number of countries in the European Union. I understand that these are sovereign states, but I don’t think it makes sense to count them equally. Applying a model in which all voters are equal doesn’t make sense to me.
I am unhappy with the authors’ attempts to imply that their work is relevant to actual politics. That said, I like the rest of the paper–it’s a fun model, and you have to start somewhere. After all, I wrote a paper on coalitions myself that had no empirical relevance. So I can hardly object to this sort of academic exercise.