Translucency, assortation, and information pooling: how groups solve social dilemmas

Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 6 (3), 285-306, 2007.

In one-shot public goods dilemmas, defection is the strictly dominant strategy. However, agents with cooperative strategies can do well if (1) agents are `translucent' (that is, if agents can fallibly recognize the strategy other agents play ex ante) and (2) an institutional structure allows `assortation' such that cooperative agents can increase the likelihood of playing with their own kind. The model developed in this article shows that even weak levels of translucency suffice if cooperators are able to pool their information to exclude defectors. Computer simulations confirm this claim. The results imply that conditional cooperation can be a successful strategy given translucency and `assortation', even if the game has a one-shot character. The article discusses implications for moral theory against the backdrop of `virtual self-regard' and the concept of moral integrity.