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Games, public goods, and the justification of the state

Lang, J.; (2011) Games, public goods, and the justification of the state. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The normative assessment of the state, I argue, may take two main forms. One may focus on legitimacy, which is established through voluntary and morally significant relationships between individuals and the states that claim authority over them. I focus on a second type of assessment; that of justification. A state, and its coercive acts, may be justified (even if that state is not legitimate) when its existence is, for whatever reason, taken to be beneficial to those it coerces. One popular justification of the state - the so-called 'public goods argument’ - invokes the prisoners' dilemma; the coercive state, on such a view, is justified insofar as it allows individuals to achieve the mutually beneficial outcomes that would evade them in its absence. In the second half of the paper, I argue that such a game theoretical argument fails. Two types of account suggest that mutually beneficial interaction (cooperation) is possible even within the prisoners' dilemma framework. One of those accounts, I argue, is rather more successful than the other. Those positions also highlight reasons for doubting that the game theoretical framework can provide a plausible basis for the justificatory task.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: Games, public goods, and the justification of the state
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1336534
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