Debating IR

Probing the philosophical underpinnings of the international system and anything else of interest.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Jonathan Berman Likes Economics Too Much to be Mad at Public Goods Liberalism

Well, perhaps I'm the victim of too many economics courses. I like economics and economic theory so I'm open to what Public Goods Liberalism has to say. Clearly, the public good problem is a serious one in economics though it is usually overcome by the state.

International relations isn't so lucky though. Having no central state to organize the distribution of public goods, leaves states with the need to form other ways of getting around the problem. I wish the author of the public goods chapter had gone over summation and weakest link which I think would have given a more complete picture of the theory.

However, from what I know of game theory it is possible in the international system to solve collective action problems based on the fact that states have to interact with each other repeatedly. Repeated interaction allows states to choose the socially optimal choice instead of defecting on a tit-for-tat basis. As long as no states defect every state will choose the better choice.

This is where the principle of reciprocity comes in and why it has been a staple of international relations for so long. It allows things to get done.


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