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contractarian

The contractarian political philosophy emphasizes the role of commitments from very large to personal scale, in holding a society together. The social contract of Rousseau?, the scientific rationality? of Thomas Hobbes?, and more recently the works of Friedrich Hayek?, Milton Friedman?, Rawls?, Robert Axelrod, David Gauthier?, Robin Hanson?, tend to empasize the need for very extreme predictability and rigour in post-commitment.

Often implicated in the failures of neoclassical economics, especially for making gross and unwarranted assumptions around the commodity contract? that applies in so-called "free markets" and who defines and enforces it, the contractarian view became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Alan Greenspan?, for instance, a close associate of Ayn Rand?, came to head the US Federal Reserve.

Perhaps the most extreme contractarian view is that advanced by overly ideological followers of Anatol Rapoport?'s game theory? who consider Tit for Tat? to be the only viable solution to the Prisoners' Dilemma?, and that Dilemma to somehow be a model for all major conflict in social situations. While Rapaport repeatedly advanced the view that T4T was an optimal solution to that Dilemma, he never made the grand claims that others made about that.

This obsession with game theory? and well framed problems is not confined to fanatical abusers of Rapoport, but may be common to all who seek scientific rationality? at the expense of both the harmony hermaneutic reasonableness? opens, and the creativity imaginative rationality opens. In extremis it may be a society-wide mathematical fetishism? that makes the relatively recent contractarian view seem to be reasonable.

As an example of the kind of conflicts that arise, the prediction market? approach - central to the anticipatory democracy model that was pioneered by Hanson and championed by Chris Peterson?, Newt Gingrich, Alvin Toffler? and Heidi Toffler? - was applied by the US Department of Defense? to try to anticipate future events. An outcry that this would permit insider trading by spies, agents, agency heads, and others in a position to benefit directly from causing dangerous or disastrous events, put a stop to the program, but the ideology that sparked it, remained.

Gingrich's Contract With America? may be a good example of how the contractarian view applies society-wide, but the Bush Administration has perhaps applied it more consistently and with more predicable results: failure of many systems that rely, not on voluntary commitment and contract, but on obligation? and a sense of duty?.

That said, the list of notable political philosophers? includes many who had a positive view of contract? and treaty? in tough situations. A typical guide to this ideology refers to(external link), for instance, game theory? and other ontological metaphors based on trade, starting with the social contract and the social capital ideas, but moving on up to Mutual Assured Destruction, perhaps the ultimate high-stakes contract.

The Toronto School has provided some key detractors or limiters of the contractarian view, perhaps because Toronto, Canada is the intellectual centre of a country that resists so-called dollar diplomacy? and the US definition of "free trade", which it recognizes as self-serving at times. Aside from Rapoport and Marshall McLuhan? - who noted that media of exchange? were much like communication media? in many ways:

Jane Jacobs was adamant that mixing the contractarian or "Trader syndrome?" mindset or moral syndrome? could only corrupt the "Guardian syndrome?" required of those who protect the public interest from unscrupulous trade, which she did not see as confined to the marketplace, but happening at every level of society. She thus equated corporatist and contractarian belief for both being willing to tolerate any scale of group entity conspiring with each other to make contracts that, inevitably in her view, would disadvantage the small or helpless players who had no power to engage in "the game" as it existed at that level. Her view is more that of Adam Smith? who argued that wherever two businessmen make a deal, there is a conspiracy against the public interest?.


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