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Game theory has proved a useful tool in the study of simple economic models. However, numerous foundational issues remain unresolved. The situation is particularly confusing in respect of the non-cooperative analysis of games with some dynamic structure in which the choice of one move or another during the play of the game may convey valuable information to the other players. Without pausing for breath, it is easy to name at least 10 rival equilibrium notions for which a serious case can be made that here is the “right” solution concept for such games.
Radical and liberal theories of egalitarianism are distinguished, in large part, by the differing degrees to which they hold people responsible for their own well-being. The most liberal or individualistic theory calls for equality of opportunity. Once such “starting gate equality,” as Dworkin (1981a) calls it, is guaranteed, then any final outcome is justified, provided certain rules, such as voluntary trading, are observed. At the other pole, the most radical egalitarianism calls for equality of welfare (assuming that interpersonal welfare comparisons can be made, so that such equality makes sense). In between these two extremes are egalitarian proposals that equalize more than conventional opportunities, yet less than full welfare. Sen (1980) speaks of equality of basic capabilities as a goal; implementing that requires more than starting gate equality, because some will require more resources than others to attain the same capabilities. Meeting basic needs is another objective. Equality of needs fulfillment is perhaps less radical than equality of basic capabilities and more radical than equality of opportunity. Rawls (1971) takes equality of primary goods as a benchmark; he distinguishes primary goods from welfare, but includes among them goods that are more complicated than conventional resources and opportunities, all of which are supposed inputs into any conception of welfare. One could imagine proposing an egalitarianism that equalized some quite measurable outcome across populations, such as infant mortality. That would be an outcome-equalizing theory where the rate of infant mortality is a proxy, presumably, for some more complicated maximand, such as the degree of wellbeing of a population.
There has been a persistent tendency to identify what is called “the freerider problem” in the production of collective (or public) goods with the prisoner's dilemma. However, in this article I want to challenge that identification by presenting an analysis of what are in fact a variety of collective action problems in the production of collective goods. My strategy is not to consult any intuitions about what the free-rider problem is; rather I will be looking at the problematic game-theoretic structures of various situations associated with the production of different types of collective goods, thereby showing what sorts of difficulties a community concerned with their voluntary production would face. I call all of these dilemmas free-rider problems because in all of them certain individuals find it rational to take advantage of others' willingness to contribute to the good in a way that threatens its production. Some readers may feel that the term ‘free-rider problem’ is so identified with the prisoner's dilemma that my extension of the term in this way “jars”; if so, I invite them to coin another word for the larger phenomenon. My aim is not to engage in linguistic analysis but to attempt at least a partial analysis of the complicated structure of collective good production.
In the first half of the 1970s, two books appeared which have subsequently been regarded as major works in political philosophy: John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971), and Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). Economists have devoted a considerable amount of ink to commentary, pro and con, on A Theory of Justice; and it is getting to be a rare public finance textbook that does not, in its discussion of governmental redistribution, describe the Kantian contract made behind the veil of ignorance. On the other hand, while Nozick has not exactly been ignored, economists have not joined the debate over Anarchy, State, and Utopia with the same gusto. When economists have joined the debate, their concern has been, more often than not, with Nozick's entitlement theory of distributive justice, as is the case with Varian (1975) and Sen (1977). What is largely missing, then, is any economic analysis of the processes that give rise to Nozick's morally legitimate state, which he calls the minimal state, and the characteristics and likely activities of the minimal state within the moral boundaries set by Nozick, his assertions to the contrary notwithstanding.
Scott Arnold's recent paper, “Marx and Market Socialism,” advances a provocative thesis: market socialists are advocating an economic system that has a strong, internally generated tendency to revert to capitalism. They are, in short, “capitalist roaders” (Arnold, 1987).
David Schweickart has challenged a number of claims that are central to my argument that market socialism would probably degenerate into something only nominally distinguishable from capitalism. Chief among these is the claim that competitive pressures would force the workers in a worker-controlled firm to create pay and authority differentials that would make such firms structurally homologous to capitalist firms. Schweickart challenges this on two fronts: He argues that there is no good reason to believe that market forces under market socialism would create the pay and authority differentials characteristic of capitalism. He further argues that certain structural features of market socialism would insure that competition would not be as intense as it is under capitalism. Consequently, even if capitalistically structured firms were more efficient, it would not make much difference, since no sword of Damocles would hang over the heads of those firms whose workers prefer more collectivist methods of control. Let us consider each of these points in turn.
Professor Arnold's reply to my reply seems not to have touched the substance of my argument. Perhaps I have been unclear. Arnold contends that any form of market socialism, if unchecked by central authorities, would revert to a system essentially undistinguishable from capitalism. Against this contention I have argued that a democratic, worker-controlled, market socialism that generates its investment fund by taxation exhibits no such tendency. Specifically, I argued that in such a society
1. there exists no tendency for socialized property to revert to private property (since workers have no incentive to sell off their firms to private individuals);
2. the ability of private individuals to accumulate vast wealth is sharply curtailed (since interest and stock income are absent);
3. the authority structures within enterprises are much more democratic than under capitalism;
4. intra-firm income differentials will be far more egalitarian than under capitalism.
Since Schweickart asserts that I have not addressed his main argument, let me consider briefly the four claims he advances at the beginning of his second reply.
Regarding 1: To argue, as I have, that there would be a strong tendency for market socialism to degenerate into capitalism, it is necessary to spell out carefully what capitalism is. Following Marx, I defined capitalism as a system in which the workers do not control the means of production and the workers sell their labor power as a commodity. As G.A. Cohen has pointed out (Cohen, 1978, pp. 219–23), this definition can be given a rechtsfrei characterization in terms of effective powers over means of production and labor power. Actual legal arrangements are not the issue. In my original paper, I never said that the workers would sell the means of production. Thus 1 is irrelevant. The real questions are: (a) Who effectively controls the means of production? (b) Who effectively gets the profits? If the answer to both of these questions is, “Not the workers,” it follows that the workers are effectively proletarians and the system is a form of capitalism.