Solving Social Dilemmas

Book by Roger Congleton: “… provides an explanation for the rise of prosperous commercial societies. Congleton argues that an endless series of social, economic, and political dilemmas have to be solved or ameliorated to sustain social and economic progress and suggests that the most plausible solutions involve internalized rules of conduct. Previous foundational texts suggest that institutions often emerge to address social dilemmas, but Congleton focuses on a solution that is arguably prior to formal institutions: the internalization of principles and rules of conduct that directly affect individual behavior and thereby group outcomes.

Supported by an intellectual and analytical history of the emergence of commercial societies in the West, the book uses elementary game theory to review a few dozen social, economic, and political dilemmas that need to be solved if prosperous societies are to emerge. It shows that ethical dispositions are likely to play important roles in solutions to all the problems examined-and arguably many more. Congleton does not claim that commercial networks result from ethical as opposed to unethical behavior, but that some ethical systems include rules that support the development of extended market networks, specialization, and innovation. As evidence the book traces how the increasing support of commerce in ethical theories in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries helped launch “the great acceleration” and the emergence of the first truly commercial societies….(More)”.