Saturday, November 19, 2016

Violence is Never in the Interest of Rational Actors

I am not sure this is true.  I am chewing on it.

I know that sometimes rational actors will have to be violent to protect themselves from irrational actors.

But I don't think two rational actors ever need to resort to violence to settle their differences.

I take it as given that long-term survival is a premise of rationality, for societies if not for each individual in it.  So rational societies in a world of rational societies know that violence for short-term gain will not make sense if it leads to retaliatory violence or other sanctions.

In societies as in individuals, "self-interest" and "selfish interest" are not the same thing.


Mac said...

I can write convoluted sentences with the best of them, but I have to tell you, I haven't a clue what this means. I think you are saying that "It all started when he hit me back." Help me, Obi-wan Kenobe.

Gruntled said...

Yeah, I am not clear on the idea myself, yet.

What I have in mind is that some argue that it is rational to take by force what we can get away with taking.

My hunch, though, is that this always comes back to bite you. It makes others not trust you, which is costly, it undermines the rule of law, which will come back to bite you when you are not the strongest, and it is bad for your character.

This argument is a version of the Melian dialogue, applied both at the micro and macro levels.

Mac said...

Whoa! Hadn't thought of Thucydides in decades. I'm in Marcus Aurelius right now--for obvious reasons--but a revisit to The Peloponnesian War may do me some good.

Your "hunch" sounds plausible to me. There may be a corollary to the effect force should always be the last resort, and even then, the necessity of force should be clear. It seems to me that there is a little of von Clausewitz in there, too, a balancing of caution and decisiveness.

And I would add to my corollary the warning that the qualification "...the necessity of force should be clear."... must be understood to be immediate and based on the most accurate information available at the time, rather than a post facto criticism based on 20/20 hindsight.

jobfinaly said...
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