Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
The preference ordering of each prisoner is identical to the first version. The
difference lies in the respective pay-offs from cooperation relative to non-
cooperation: the first prisoner gains two years of freedom whereas the second
prisoner gains four years. It might therefore be rationalfor each prisoner to submit
to an enforced agreement, but it is not necessarily fair. Given the unfairness of the
situation it is hard to argue that those who are disadvantaged relative to others
have a moralobligation to obey the state. And this brings us to the third objection
to Hobbes.

  1. In both versions there was a unique solution to the dilemma – but what if instead
    of one set of pay-offs there were multiple sets? Let us imagine that the agreement
    is not about simply obeying or not obeying the state, but is concerned with the
    creation of a certain kind of state. We have to decide on the economic and
    political structure of society: should power be concentrated or dispersed? Should
    there be strong private property rights or, alternatively, collective ownership of
    economic resources? How much freedom should individuals have? Do we want
    an extensive welfare state or should individuals be required to buy health cover
    and education? Whatever is chosen, we are all better off under some kind of
    state than no state, but there is not a unique solution. The principles or institutions
    we choose will benefit people in different ways: if ‘a’ represents the state of nature,
    and ‘b... z’ a range of alternative political systems, then you might be better
    off under any of ‘b... z’ than under ‘a’, but your preferred system will not be
    shared by all other citizens. For twentieth-century contractarians the aim of the
    contract is to create a certain set of political institutions – or principles of justice

    • rather than simply contract into the state. For example, Rawls accepts the logic
      of the solution to the prisoner’s dilemma, but that is merely the starting point
      for a theory of justice: it has to be both rational and reasonableto submit to the
      The fundamental problem with Hobbes’s argument is that he reduces the legitimacy
      of the state to self-interest. His starting point is a materialist conception of human
      nature: human beings are ‘bodies in motion’, continually desiring things, and never
      fully satisfied (Hobbes, 1991: 118–20). Because there is scarcity of desired objects,
      humans are brought into conflict with one another. Their greatest fear is death, and
      that fear is the key to understanding why the state of nature is a ‘war of all against
      all’ (Hobbes, 1991: 185–6). Although Hobbes outlines the ‘laws of nature’ that he
      claims exist in the state of nature, these are best interpreted as akin to scientific,
      rather than moral, laws. For example, we are required to seek peace, unless war is
      necessary for self-defence, but this can be understood as a prudential instruction
      rather than a moral requirement (Hobbes, 1991: 190).

Chapter 8 Liberalism 181

Second prisoner
Remains silent Confesses

First prisoner Remains silent 4, 1 10, 0
Confesses 0, 10 6, 5

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