On a sunny day in the spring of 1986 (I think but could have been 1985), as I was entering the Center for the Study of Public Choice I noticed Gordon Tullock bent over watching the movement of ants that had created an ant hill in a crack in the cement in front of the Center front door. I said hello Prof. Tullock, but he just replied by pointing to the ants and saying "research". He didn't smile or chuckle, but he was studying intensely the organization of work that the ants exhibited.
I was not as puzzled as you might imagine because my main professor Don Lavoie, was fascinated by sociobiology and the study of insects. In his work, National Economic Planning: What is Left?, he utilized the work of E. O. Wilson on termites to illustrate the communication of dispersed knowledge. So when later that day, Tullock appeared in the Center's library where I was working and handed me a copy of his book ms -- Coordination without Command: The Economics of Insect Societies -- which was about the economic organization of non-human societies, I was quite excited. Tullock has pointed out in some subsequent writings that if he had published this book when he wrote it, he would have written the first book in sociobiology. The work was later published in form as The Economics of Non-Human Societies.
On Tullock's work, I would just point to Peter Leeson's "Coordination without command" and my "Maximizing Behavior and Market Forces" which were both published in Public Choice in 2008, and discuss his work in relationship to spontaneous order theory.
Mario Rizzo over at Think Markets points to a CBS Sunday Morning segment which was focused on the coordination without command that is evident in ant societies. He notes both the importance and the limits of the analogy to human societies.
What do you think we can learn from non-human societies for understanding complex coordination within human societies?