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Thomas Choate

"The moral of our fictional game? Violence is only held in check by violence."

I agree with this conclusion though I don't think the game necessarily confirms it. There is no reason that the payoffs proposed should be the correct (even in proportions to the) real-world amounts. Certainly, some payoff structures would make it always preferable to be a Dove, rather than requiring Hawks to deter others from being Hawks. The realism of such structures where the payoff of (D,D) exceeds the Hawk payoff of (H,D) and (D,H) may be contested; though I am not entirely convinced that such an arrangement is even unusual, particularly with moral incentives being considered.

Though my major criticism must hinge on the notion of a division between Hawks and Doves as sorts of people, who never act in other manners until they definitively change their mind. Indeed, if the proposed payoffs are correct, we can conceive of "hawk" and "dove" being actions rather than mentalities with which one's actions always accord; with this, we come to rather startling conclusions. (I do not feel this complicates the model much as most of the games we consider have real choice each time they are played.) If approaching someone we know will Dove, we should Hawk. If approached by a Hawk, we should Dove. The equilibria for the game are (H,D) and (D,H). While still indicating that violence is going to exist in a society, this seems counter-intuitively to argue that when faced with violence in a particular situation the best strategy is to retreat. (This is likely true for those cases as suggested by the payoff matrix where violent response will escalate the situation, presumably minor theft, but it is certainly not true for cases where violent response will not likely make the situation any worse, e.g. assault, kidnapping, attempted murder). Though I think this would go further to support the argument that the proposed payoffs are not realistic, as it would required all interactions in equilibrium to have one party use force against the other.

Just my two cents on the model, which I think definitely could be used to confirm this conclusion with reasonable assumptions explicitly developed. This is certainly an interesting approach, nonetheless.


Here's what I said on Facebook:
A nice analysis, but I do believe that any remotely thoughtful pacifist is aware of this fact. In a world where violence is inevitable, true pacifism amounts to a transcendence of the will to live. Of course, the knights of righteous bloodshed will claim that pacifists are "free riders," but how is this any better than the "you use roads, therefore you owe your living to the state" argument?

Also, since at no point in history has the world been full of doves, and such a world would likely look very different from a private-property based economy, I doubt your psychological predictions are necessarily valid.

You replied:
I have no doubt that a thoughtful pacifist is aware of this argument. It is a very common argument that I thought could be improved upon with a little mathematical formalism.

Also, that the pacifists are free riders doesn't necessitate the sort of argument I think you're hinting at where the knights of righteous bloodshed claim that their violence is a public good and that therefore they can take an amount of resources from the pacifists to pay for their provision of that public good. Whether the knights would be just in demanding that sum is a question I'll leave untouched here. Perhaps the pacifist would prefer a world in which no one used violence in self-defense.

(I think the road argument steps beyond what it's premises can reasonably argue. Yes, I think that one could reasonably argue that anyone who uses a public road owes a sum approximating the marginal benefit they get from using that road to the government.

However, to argue that all of society depends of government infrastructure would necessitate the premise that private entrepreneurs would not be able to provide (perhaps less efficiently than the government) those services if the government were not to. Ronald Coase showed that private entrepreneurs provided lighthouses without the state, so I don't think it is at all unreasonable to argue that they would be able to provide highways as well.)

I completely admit that no society of Earth has even been all-dove. (That would falsify my model since I'm trying to provide a means of understanding why no society can even achieve that population ratio of doves.) I'm not at all as convinced as you are that a system of private property titles would not emerge in a society of doves since property titles lead to efficient economic systems (see Mises and Hayek on socialist calculation). Also all of my psychological premises may not be valid, but I think they are reasonable and I challenge anyone who does not think they are to prove my moral/psychological premises wrong.

I reply:
-My reference to the roads argument was just an example of someone giving you something you didn't ask for, and acting like they did you a favor, e.g. Orwell talking about all the favors he does for the pacifists. I didn't really mean it as a deeper criticism than that.

-I wouldn't be surprised if something resembling property emerged in a pacifist society, but it would be different from private property as we know it because it would not be based on a threat of violence. As you say in your blog, organized violence does have a strong influence on the actions of individuals.

-As for psychological predictions, I believe violence might decrease if the people who condemned it unilaterally actually consistently and authentically applied that principle. If someone tells me not to watch tv, I am more likely to listen to them if they themselves do not watch tv--even if they say it's "necessary tv-watching," they are still contradicting their premise that tv is evil.

Is violence evil? Then don't do it. Is it good when filtered through a religious, economic, or political ideal? Then don't condemn it generally.

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