The Tragedy of the Community

What kind of good is it?

The first problem is to clarify what kind of a good is community. I have previously identified several layers of identity/community: fitness/family, competence/company, virtue/church, and status/nation. People want to be viewed as fit (attractive), competent, virtuous, and high-status.

Why does this good require coordination?

Everyone contributes to the common good in two ways: 1) our thoughts, beliefs, words, actions (and social media posts, etc.) contribute to the ever-changing definition of what counts as Good, and 2) we pay attention to others to make them feel that they meet the definition of Good. Note that with respect to #1, the process of creating the concept of Good is a creative/entrepreneurial one. That is, it is possible to find new ways for ourselves and those around us to be Good.


So far this all seems sort of touchy-feely. The whole point of society is to make each other feel good, so why son’t we just go ahead and give everyone a medal, right?

Coordination Game

Ok, so let’s recap where we are. What we really want is to feel good about ourselves, and that depends on 1) sharing ideas about what is good with other people, and 2) other people spending time to recognize that we are good. We can “defect” by playing status games that put other people down, or by not spending the time and effort it takes to recognize others. We can also defect by trying to achieve recognition without actually engaging in pro-social behavior.



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Patent Attorney, Crypto Enthusiast, Father of two daughters