game theoretical gandhi / more laptops

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Fri Aug 04 2000 - 00:19:43 PDT

> Especially the minor crimes, in fact, since cops love to use those for
> mild harassment of people they don't like - make them go to court to
> get the case dismissed. Which sucks, but in fact there is that
> autosentencing option here - don't go to court & pay the full fine, no
> questions asked.

This situation is more interesting than the original thread: what
you've described here is a "Chicken" game, and from what little of
Gandhi I've read[1], I think there's a good mapping between what he
referred to as practicing himsa, and playing game-theoretic chicken.

The key to harassment here is that the cost of paying the fine is
less than the cost of actually taking the case to court. In that
case, a naive economic agent will choose to "cooperate" (pay the
fine), even though the other player has "defected" (made a false

We get chicken games when the "defect/cooperate" payoff is greater
than the "defect/defect" payoff, and Gandhi tackles that imbalance
from several directions.

From my reading, swaraj and swadeshi seem very similar to liberty
in the greek/roman sense. Absent any third-party effects, the
only way DD is worse than DC is in the amount forfeited by not
cooperating with the other player. If the defectee practiced
self-reliance, they could bring the DD payoff up, and if it were
adjusted by enough to be not significantly worse than the DC
payoff, the game would no longer be chicken.

Ahimsa and non-cooperation, on the other hand, seem to be directed
against playing chicken to begin with. As I understand it, non-
cooperation is a reputational strategy of "I will defect in any
game that is not at least as good as prisoners' dilemma", which
(as DD is also bad for a chicken aggressor) should keep one from
being offered chicken games. On the other hand, ahimsa, in its
full expression, means that one shouldn't play chicken even if one
is the stronger (first move) player, and should either cooperate
or offer terms at least as good as those of prisoners' dilemma,
a symmetry which may have been lost on most people.[2]

Finally, belief in ahimsa also serves to change the payoffs, but
addresses the imbalance in the opposite manner. If himsa/chicken
games are bad, and offering DC encourages more of them, then the
DC payoff really needs to be lowered by a factor corresponding to
the disutility of injustice, and that will cause it to fall to
the DD level.

so, if ahimsa = avoid himsa = avoid chicken games, then:
0) don't play chicken
and when rule 0 fails, avoid typical chicken outcomes:
1) don't cooperate with defection (don't submit)
2) don't preemptively defect (don't dominate)
3) discount DC payoffs (avoid injustice)
4) ensure high DD payoffs (create independence)


Jeff, does this chicken-coercion have any relation to the sorts
of coercive behavior you had in mind several months ago?

- - - - - - - - -

[1] _Non-Violence in Peace & War_; are there better sources?

[2] judging by the history of partition after independence.

- - - - - - - - -

> Since the cops are still making the arrests, you're turning them into
> judges. And you'd also have to do away with appeal, or else you're
> just deferring the human element.

I must not be communicating well. The model I gave attempts to
maximize the human element, not to remove it:

- one only attempts deterministic justice if everyone agrees on
  what the facts are. In the examples you gave, there would be
  pretty major disagreement: "was not", "were too", and no hope
  of cheap consensus justice.

- everyone does not mean only cops. In fact, it is best if
  everyone means "no cops at all": if there is a cheap way to
  resolve conflicts that is also consistent, then accidents
  can be remedied without recourse to agents of a state, as
  one needs them neither as oracles nor as authorities.

- a laptop is a silly tool for cases with consensus,
  it's a pathetic tool for cases without. Is there a
  legal equivalent to GIGO?

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