My research applies economic theory to study dynamic political economy questions. My recent projects are on the dynamics of inequality, robust mechanism design, and strategic communication.

Before joining UC San Diego I received a Master's in Applied Mathematics from the University of Southern California.

Power Consolidation in Groups

What prevents power and resources from falling into the hands of a few?

Abstract: I develop an economic theory of how a society's distribution of power and resources evolves over time. Multiple lineages of players compete by accumulating power, which is modeled as an asset that increases the probability of winning conflicts over resources. Given any initial distribution of power, this model provides a unique prediction of how it will evolve in equilibrium. Three types of stable distributions are approached in the long run, termed inclusive, oligarchic, and dictatorial, where all power is uniformly distributed among all players, a few players, or held by just one player, respectively. When political competition is left unchecked, inclusive regimes are generically unstable in large societies while dictatorships and sufficiently concentrated oligarchies can always remain. This paper not only provides a game theoretical explanation for the observed tendency of power consolidation to take place in large societies – a longstanding empirical puzzle – but it also provides policy implications for how to counteract this tendency. Finally, I show how larger population sizes can induce stronger dictatorships without bound.

Sabotage-Proof Mechanism Design (with Danil Dmitriev)

How does one keep a voting mechanism from being hijacked?

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Abstract: Online voting mechanisms (e.g. polls) are a potentially powerful, cost-effective means of collecting large amounts of data about preferences, but such large-scale data collection has proven to be vulnerable to sabotage (e.g. by internet trolls) if proper precautions are not taken. To this end, we consider the problem of designing a voting mechanism that is robust to derailment by external groups. We show that plurality voting and other standard mechanisms are often not robust to sabotage; in fact it is sometimes preferable to not run any poll at all. The optimal voting mechanism is found to make saboteurs indifferent between each alternative they can vote for, since this undermines their ability to adversely affect the designer's predictions of other voters' preferences.

Strategic Misdirection πŸ’¬Ask a Question

How can a conversation be controlled given uncertainty about which topics are relevant?

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I study the use of misdirection in a strategic communication game between a Bayesian investigator (e.g. a regulator) and respondent (e.g. a pharmaceutical company). The investigator queries the respondent about multiple information sources (e.g. studies, tests, etc.), each of uncertain relevance to a payoff-relevant state (e.g. efficacy of a drug, vaccine, etc.). Information is assumed to be verifiable, but respondents are permitted to dodge questions (i.e. by answering a different question than what was asked) and have superior knowledge (ex ante) of the relevance of each source to the state. My preliminary findings indicate that in sequential equilibrium, the respondent's answers are independent of the investigator's queries. Moreover, strategic respondents may be more informative than those who never dodge questions since the act of dodging itself carries information.

Dynamically Robust Political Institutions πŸ’¬Ask a Question

Can a political institution be flexible enough to adapt to new information, but not so flexible as to become maladaptive due to the misspecification of its participants?