The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Dilemmas of collective action

Cooperation problems writ large. How do a million people work together?

See also democracy etc.

Collective Action Dilemmas for Elites

A less-frequently-mentioned special case of interest to me. See e.g. Sing14.

In the state’s husbandry of the pigs of the economy, one might argue that the prime task is to ensure that said pigs do not eat where they shit. Damn but those pigs squeal if you try to tell them what to do, though. It’s their shitpuddle, they worked hard to shit it.

Here I will discuss dilemmas of collective action for corporations; If every business wants highly paid customers and low-paid staff, whose job is it to provide customers? (The obvious solution of corporate tax providing an income to an idle consumer class is obviously politically untenable, unless you count financial bailouts, in which case… as you were.) If every business wants state-provided infrastructure but must complain about their own personal share of the costs, which businesses are left holding the can? If every business knows that all their peers are lobbying to sell off the state assets for scrap, mightn’t they as well take a piece of the pie rather than be the only ones who were left out of the action?

Can you resolve this through a cartel? Our business won’t whine for special subsidy if yours doesn’t, we all win?


Social capital. Development version, Bo Rothstein, How the Trust Trap Perpetuates Inequality