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vice and virtue without a soul

January 11, 2006

While I have not read Hidden Order by David Friedman, he offers up this selection today on hawk-dove equilibria. I regard it as an error for such analysis to be silent on internal motives for behavior. In particular, lots of people wish to be virtuous, and work at it; and lots of people struggle against their vices. A great number of people are religious, and regard it as a duty to God to be virtuous. There are also many non-religious people that regard virtue as end in itself -- goodness is a good, go figure. The equilibrium suggested by Friedman, I think, is more of an internal struggle than an external one. This internal/external dichotomy has problems, but there is certainly a role for ideology, broadly considered -- and this is what Friedman is not considering. While there is an external, non-ideological struggle that takes place, and the incentives one faces are important in molding character and specific choices, it is more appropriate to use the hawk-dove equilibrium as a rough hypothesis or starting point in further inquiry, not a deduction from economic theory.

So, while his conclusions seem strong, I think they follow from weak premises.

What a minute! Did I, an Austrian, just criticize Friedman, a neoclassical, for being too a priori / not empirical enough? I think I did.

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