physicaleconomics

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Civilization as Self-Restraint

I don't remember the exact quote or source, but I believe Frank Knight wrote somewhere about how part of what allows any game to continue is some willingness on the part of players to accept a losing outcome without flipping over the game board. So when a businessman is outcompeted, capitalism depends in part on their willingness to quietly go out of business rather than escalate in some other direction. Similarly, democracy seems to require some willingness on the part of the losing party to accept defeat.  And Knight, as I recall, argued that while you could increase or decrease the socially desired tendencies with incentives, you could not make the probabilities 1 and 0 for the good and bad options respectively. So it would always be necessary for people to have some sense of the importance of the game itself and of fair play within the game, even if they lose—and even, I think I remember him saying, if the other players cheat to some degree.

Interested to see where this goes.