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Pimpin’ ain’t easy!

September 7, 2009

I was watching one of my favorite TV shows the other night, Hung.

For those who don’t know about it, the show is about a high school basketball coach (Ray) whose home is damaged in a fire. He doesn’t have enough money to repair it and was behind on insurance payments. To pay for repairs he becomes a gigolo.

Ray’s pimp, Tanya, is a mild mannered poet; not your typical pimp. Tanya approaches a client who hasn’t been following the approved protocol. and tells her she has to follow the rules. The client, Jemma, asks, “or what?”

At this, she stumbled upon a very important point: rules are nice, but there isn’t always a good reason for someone to follow them. Tanya had no means of enforcing her rules without Ray’s cooperation.

Likewise if someone is willing and able to use force (and perhaps isn’t educated or smart enough to be as successful at doing something else–i.e. has low opportunity cost for violence), it is probably rational for them to do so. We shouldn’t count on people behaving irrationally to make society work.

This has been discussed before. If there is an imbalance of power, cooperation isn’t to be expected. How do we address this and what are the implications?

Can we address it? Not without changing how humans respond to incentives. That hardly seems likely. Even animals respond to incentives and any animal big enough to eat another animal will do so if it’s hungry and the cost is low enough.

And the implications? For one, we should avoid allowing the concentration of power when we can. We should especially avoid the concentration of power to concentrate power (that is the power to grant more powers)!

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