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Suppose Everybody Behaved Like That?

In: Economics in a Changing World


  • Ken Binmore

    (University College London)


My mother, like most mothers, was fond of the question: Suppose everybody behaved liked that? Her logic was the same as Spinoza’s (1674) in the quotation from his Tractatus Politicus that heads this chapter. Since things would be bad for everybody if everybody behaved selfishly, selfishness must therefore be irrational. Rousseau (1762) argues similarly in his Inequality of Man when telling the famous stag-hunt tale.2 However, Kant (1785) is the most famous pedlar of the fallacy. As his categorical imperative puts it: Act only on the maxim that you would at the same time will to be a universal law.

Suggested Citation

  • Ken Binmore, 1996. "Suppose Everybody Behaved Like That?," International Economic Association Series, in: Beth Allen (ed.), Economics in a Changing World, chapter 2, pages 25-62, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:intecp:978-1-349-25168-1_2
    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-25168-1_2

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