Negative-sum conflicts happen due to factual disagreements (mostly inaccurate assessments of relative power), not value disagreements. If two parties have accurate beliefs but different values, bargaining will be more beneficial to both than making war, because bargaining can avoid destroying wealth but still take into account the "correct" counterfactual outcome of war.

Though bargaining may still look like "who whom" if one party is much more powerful than the other.

Negative-sum conflicts happen due to factual disagreements (mostly inaccurate assessments of relative power), not value disagreements.

By 'negative-sum' do you really mean 'negative for all parties'? Because, taking 'negative-sum' literally, we can imagine a variant of the Prisoner's Dilemma where A defecting gains 1 and costs B 2, and where B defecting gains 3 and costs A 10.

8Vladimir_M9yHow strong perfect-information assumptions do you need to guarantee that rational decision-making can never lead both sides in a conflict to precommit to escalation, even in a situation where their behavior has signaling implications for other conflicts in the future? (I don't know the answer to this question, but my hunch is that even if this is possible, the assumptions would have to be unrealistic for anything conceivable in reality.) And of course, as you note, even if every conflict is resolved by perfect Coasian bargaining, if there is a significant asymmetry of power, the practical outcome can still be little different from defeat and subjugation (or even obliteration) in a war for the weaker side.

Open Thread, April 2011

by ata 1 min read2nd Apr 2011111 comments

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It seems we have agreed that open threads will continue but that they will go in the Discussion section, so here's this month's thread.