Ethics 119 (1):211-216 (2008)

S. M. Amadae
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
This review of Richard Tuck's Free Riding conveys Tuck's crucial distinction between the logic of collective action which fails due to the problem of causal negligibility, and free riding, which has been modeled as a Prisoner's Dilemma and involves casually impacting another actor in an adverse manner. Tuck also distinguishes the practice of voting which he argues neither fails due to the worry of causal negligibility or due to free riding; instead it represents a problem of achieving sufficiency of votes representing a minimum winning coalition. This article clarifies how the problem of collective action resembles perfect free market competition which is defined to be characterized by a state in which no single agent can impact the price of a good. Similarly, in a large scale collective action, no single actor can have a causal impact on the outcome of the vast enterprise. This inability to make a difference due to the negligibility of each individual's causal power differentiates collective action and the tragedy of the commons from other social problems
Keywords Collective action  free riding  rationality  perfect competition  responsibility  instrumental reason  Prisoners' Dilemma  tragedy of the commons
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DOI 10.1086/596460
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