We Have it Backwards: Cooperation, Existential Anxiety and Distributive Justice
23 Pages Posted: 14 May 2016 Last revised: 19 Oct 2016
Date Written: May 10, 2016
We often have the link between cooperation and resources backwards: frequently we adopt a resource to cement cooperation rather than cooperating to obtain a resource. This paper suggests this reversal will happen when people have to make decisions under a condition of outcome space ignorance I have termed “existential anxiety (EA).” The resources sought under EA will be those that build cooperation even if they do not meet basic needs as well as those that are easier to obtain. EA can force people to form alliances and generally behave in ways that can seem quite irrational. Sometimes that is a good thing, but more often it is not. One way to force people into EA is to disrupt the behavior they have chunked into scripts. So, there is a (potentially measureable) way to determine a policy’s Script Incidence (SI) in order to prevent or promote that behavior. When we promote policies where the SI tends to fall principally on one group of people, we can be sure that we will eventually push them into EA. The backlash will be significant if those promulgating the policies seem never to have any SI at all.
Keywords: cooperation, decision theory, prisoner's dilemma, distributive justice
JEL Classification: A10, C79, D81, D89, H49, I32, O20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation