Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-x2fsp Total loading time: 0.385 Render date: 2022-11-27T19:17:33.816Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

10 - The role of numbers in Prisoner's Dilemmas and public good situations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2015

Geoffrey Brennan
Affiliation:
Australian National University
Michael Brooks
Affiliation:
University of Tasmania
Martin Peterson
Affiliation:
Texas A & M University
Get access

Summary

It was a special feature of Musgrave's, Olson's and … Buchanan's work that they stressed the theoretical importance of group size.

(Tuck 2008: 3–4)

10.1 Introduction

Although the Prisoner's Dilemma was originally developed and analyzed as a two-person interaction, many of the most important applications of what we might loosely call “Prisoner's Dilemma thinking” involve issues in the social sciences that are concerned with much larger numbers. This fact immediately poses a question: How does the two-person version differ from the large number Prisoner's Dilemma? Do the lessons of (and intuitions arising from) the two-person case carry over to larger scale social applications?

The general consensus in the economics literature is that the differences are very considerable – amounting to something like a qualitative difference between small-number and large-number situations. Consider, for example, the case of market provision of so-called “public goods.” As Richard Tuck observes in the epigraph, virtually all the classic writers on public goods provision make two points: first, that the public goods problem is very like the Prisoner's Dilemma problem in certain critical respects; and second, that small-number cases are unlike large-number cases in that voluntary action is much more likely to secure satisfactory levels of public goods provision in the small-number setting. Buchanan, for example, observes:

the numerous corroborations of the hypothesis in everyday experience are familiar. Volunteer fire departments arise in villages, not in metropolitan centers. Crime rates increase consistently with city size. Africans behave differently in tribal culture than in urban-industrialized settings. There is honor among thieves. The Mafia has its own standards… Litter is more likely to be found on main-traveled routes than on residential streets.

(Buchanan 1965/1999: 322)

There is in short consensus that numbers make a difference; but much less consensus concerning exactly how and why they do.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Prisoner's Dilemma , pp. 177 - 198
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×