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Markets, Morals, and the Law$
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Jules L. Coleman

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199253609

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253609.001.0001

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Market contractarianism

Market contractarianism

(p.243) 10. Market contractarianism
Markets, Morals, and the Law

Jules L. Coleman

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses two theories about legitimate political authority. The first is that political institutions are justified because they emerge as the outcome of a rational bargain among individuals who recognise the state of nature as a prisoners' dilemma. The state of nature thus constitutes a form of market failure, and coercive political institutions are justified as solutions to the problem of market failure. This is termed thin market contractarianism. In contrast, thick market contractarianism is the view that political authority is justified not only to rectify market failure, but also to make possible the conditions of market success in the classical economic sense. The chapter introduces a move from classical economic models to more general rational choice models, especially bargaining theory. What was once seen largely as market failure problems, are now bargaining problems embedded in prisoners' dilemmas.

Keywords:   market contractarianism, prisoners' dilemma, rational choice, bargaining theory, market failure, political authority, political institutions

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