Game theories let us analyze precise models of social situations. While each model leaves out much that is important, the ability to see how an entire set of payoffs, info, and acts work together can give powerful insights into social behavior. But it does matter a lot which games we think apply best to which real situations.
Sorry could you explain why this can explain why we seem uninterested in systematic efforts in charity, and why the news, etc. seems uninterested in topics that are important?
Are you saying it is because good causes, important topics and stuff that are in vogue today will not necessarily be in vogue tomorrow and so people tend to stay away since they don't want to be tied down to anyone thing, giving them the freedom to move on and keep up with things that are high status? Do I understand that correctly?
Here is the TL,DR, for those interested in such things: Coalition politics are complicated.
The NYC rationalist group tried out a version of this game, and we had a very fun and interesting night. It culminated in this new game design I'm now working on: http://thezvi.livejournal.c...
I don't think coalitions must be conspiratorial; for one thing, a coalition might constitute a majority.
But to form ruling coalitions, elites must represent their interests as the interests of the masses.
This seems likely to be an "eternal truth."
[Added 11/07.] One important implication of this model is:
It is clear that coalitions that get to negotiate later hold the advantage in this scheme.
Then, we should see efforts to change the order of negotiations. Do we see this?
Well, I should qualify that, because while historically disadvantaged groups can claim to be victims, teachers can't. Unions, sugar producers, veterans, etc. are all pretty self-serving groups that talk about bigger virtues: the children, defending the country, etc. In the end mainly a pretext for self-serving rents.
Coalitions work best when small, because it's easier to identify 'cheaters'. As coalitions are basically conspiracies, if the masses know that group X is in a conspiracy, they will squash them like a bug. In the old days the cant wasn't today's ephemeral virtues, but rather, things related to honor. They believed there was a natural aristocracy which had special privileges because they had special virtues granted by God. The Holy Roman Empire was really just a dynasty of the Habsburg family among others.
Of course, you can subjugate a populace through force, as in colonialism, but then you need some sort of apartheid and a big advantage in technology. I don't think those were 'conspiracies' because they were open.
Do coalitions have to be subtle? Do they have to be about victimization and egalitarianism?
To me these seem like very recent developments, not eternal truths.
Coalition forming and switching comes with a price to the overall group, so if you want to limit it you have to make it so that no one can ever get a really great reward (at least not without a really great contribution towards the overall group) and that damage to the overall group is borne by all members. Basically what most people would consider a fair and safe society.
I can look back in hindsight can't I? In any case I think it's healthy to stay skeptical about claims that supposedly "everyone" does something all the time that you've never done, while you're a normal person with a normal life as far as you know.
Yes (to the last paragraph) but we don't have the absolute psychological freedom to pick norms: equality norms work effectively when there's something physical to match. (See Status inflation and deflation: Prestige, the essence of status, permits broad alliances — http://tinyurl.com/lxokdf7 )
For prisoner's dilemmas, the outcome is that both players defect. But the best-for-everyone outcome is for both to cooperate. One "solution" to the prisoners' dilemma is to step back and work out a deal such as "If you defect, you have to pay a fine."
So what is the solution to divide the dollar games?
If we assume linear utility (as opposed to diminishing marginal utility), then it doesn't really matter what the outcome is. If the shifting of coalitions is costly, then we'd want norms that determine how goods are distributed so no wasteful competition is needed. The norms could be totally arbitrary. Anyone who goes against distribution-norms would need to be punished.
If we assume that the goods have diminishing utility, as a lot of things do, then perhaps a norm of equality would be useful, as it ensures both that everyone gets what they need, and sets a norm that prevents costly coalition-forming as mentioned above.
Perhaps this is why people vote as if they are 'groupish', not 'selfish'. Further, why coalitions have to be subtle, coalitions have to be plausibly protecting victimization and promoting egalitarianism as opposed to simply being selfishly advancing their parochial interests.
Status hierarchies usually aren't arbitrary - they are based on actual abilities to win fights, etc. Coalition politics is quite consistent with status hierarchies - see the world of chimps for example. With coalition politics, status depends more on your abilities in such politics, such as your abilities to read fashion, pick good allies, etc.
Coalition shifting encourages pro-social behavior. Imagine a group of people who are unable to leave each other; for example prisonners or children in school. We would expect a strong pecking order, with highest-status members being cruel to everyone else to preserve the order.
Now imagine a group of people where anyone is free to leave; for example an open-source software community. Suddenly it makes sense for the highest-status people to act nice; otherwise the remaining members could leave and create their own alternative community.
It's the threat of "voting by feet" that motivates higher-status people to act pro-socially. Removing the threat gives the higher-status people more power. So it makes strategic sense for them to create rules that make "voting by feet" more difficult: to encourage group loyalty and hostility towards outsiders.
(unless we're both autists shouldn't we notice this stuff in our own lives if we looked closely enough if it really is what the vast majority of humans are doing?)
I take it Robin has noticed the same, as I think I have. But how could you have looked closely enough, when you just now learned of the theory?
This is a fairly obvious nitpick, but to give the model greater accuracy you should take into account that those genetically related have a desire to keep family members in their coalition independent of the spoils- not generally a strong enough bias to overcome selfish preferences, but strong enough to be a noticable factor.