Brian Barrys kritik av Hardins koordineringsteori

The fundamental objection to Hardin’s whole approach is that to make a state the solution of a coordination problem is far too good an explanation of social order. Coordination conventions have built-in self-enforcing mechanisms that give everybody a strong incentive to comply without any need for any additional enforcement. By contrast, a state has to rely heavily on its ability to call down heavy sanctions on those who break its laws or fail to pay its taxes. Even then, states achieve nothing remotely like the high levels of compliance effortlessly created by coordination conventions.


It is quite common in Africa and Latin America for a fairly small group of military personnel to overthrow a constitutional regime or for a constitutional president to turn into a dictator by an autogolpe. This fact does not in itself point us more towards states being solutions to one kind of problem rather than the other. But if we reflect on its significance, we shall surely see how implausible it makes the idea that states are solutions to coordination problems. Nobody sheds blood over the time zone, the rule of the road, or the system of weights and measures, even if they arouse some degree of disagreement. Political power is only at the extreme margins concerned with coordination problems such as these. Control of the government enables those who hold it to enrich themselves corruptly (or in accordance with corrupt laws they have created), to channel costs and benefits to some regions and ethnic groups and away from others, and so on. Especially where other means of enrichment are scant, this power is worth fighting for. I apologize for the obviousness of these reminders, but they seem to be needed.


Barry, Brian. 2010. “David Hume as a Social Theorist.” Utilitas 22 (04), s. 387–89.