Independence and Interdependence: Lessons from the Hive

37 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2010 Last revised: 27 Oct 2010

See all articles by Adrian Vermeule

Adrian Vermeule

Harvard Law School

Christian List

LMU Munich; London School of Economics

Date Written: October 16, 2010


There is a substantial class of collective decision problems whose successful solution requires interdependence among decision makers at the agenda-setting stage and independence at the stage of choice. We define this class of problems and describe and apply a search-and-decision mechanism theoretically modeled in the context of honeybees, and identified in earlier empirical work in biology. The honeybees’ mechanism has useful implications for mechanism design in human institutions, including courts, legislatures, executive appointments, research and development in firms, and basic research in the sciences. Our paper offers a fresh perspective on the idea of “biomimicry” in institutional design and raises the possibility of comparative politics across species.

Suggested Citation

Vermeule, Adrian and List, Christian, Independence and Interdependence: Lessons from the Hive (October 16, 2010). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 10-44, Available at SSRN: or

Adrian Vermeule (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts
Griswold 500
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Christian List

LMU Munich ( email )


London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom

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