on March 1, 2001
This is part one of Ken Binmore's exciting theory of the social contract taking up the discussion that took place in the 70ies after the publication of John Rawls' "Theory of Justice". While he sticks to the idea of a social contract reached through voluntary agreement in the Original Position, he also considers the utilitarian critique such as Harsanyi's. But Binmore does much more than that. He translates Rawls' metaphysical idea of a reflective equilibrium into a two-stage bargaining game with flesh and bones. He stresses the tautological character of game-theoretic tools which in this context becomes an advantage. By comparison of the ethical properties of allocations reached via competitive markets and those reached through bargaining in the original position he tries to identify a demarcation line for the decentralized aggregation of individual preferences. Binmore's book is going to be a challenge to any reader interested in the problem of explaining progress in human societies.