Mencken couldn’t help himself: it was the journalist innhim talking. At best, journalists are useful idiots; at worstnthey are, in Sartre’s phrase (which is best applied to Sartre),nmen of bad faith. This is not to say there have not beennprincipled and learned journalists like Chesterton, AlbertnJay Nock, Joe Sobran, and Mencken himself, but thenNice Guys Finish FirstnEver since Epicurus, political philosophersnhae been treating man’snability to make and keep agreementsnas one of the foundations ofnsocial and political life. In writersnlike Locke and Rousseau, the socialncontract assumed the proportions ofna religious myth, but by explainingneverything, contract theorists understoodnnothing.nIn reaction against Locke’s liberalnpieties, many philosophers havenemphasized the role of conflict,nwar, and subjugation in the creationnof ciil society. But it wouldnbe a serious mistake to excludencooperation from the discussion.nObiously, there are adantagesnand disadvantages to being nasty ornnice. In recent years, the mostncommon method for studying thenprice and payoffs of competitionnand cooperation has been throughngame theory. The favorite game hasnbeen the prisoner’s dilemma: twoncriminals are caught for a minornoffense. Both will surely be punishednunless one of them decides tonplea bargain by accusing the othernof a more serious crime. If bothn”cooperate” (i.e., refuse to talk),nthey recei’e a moderate reward innthe form of a light sentence. If onlynone talks, then he receives a greatnreward (i.e., goes free), and thenother gets a more serious punishment.nIf both talk, both lose.nThe trouble with most game theorynwas that it remained theoretical,nuntil Robert Axelrod conductedna pf;.oner’s dilemma tournament.nHe analyzes the results innThe Evolution of Cooperation (NewnYork: Basic Books; SI7.95). In twonrounds of competition, scientistsnand game players were asked tondesign a computer program whichnwould be tested against all the othernREVISIONSnprograms submitted. In bothnrounds the clear winner was TITnFOR TAT —the simplest of all.nTIT FOR TAT specified only twonrules: 1) begin by cooperating; 2)nrepeat the opponent’s previousnmove. In other words, begin withnthe expectation of cooperation. Ifnthe other player is “loyal,” continuento cooperate. If he tries to improvenhis score by defecting, punish himnby following suit until he changesnhis ways, then forgive him immediately.nOther strategies beat TIT FORnTAT in a head-to-head contest, butnover the long haul of the tournament,nit racked up the highestnscore. In fact, all successful strategiesnincluded the same basic elements:ncooperation, swift retaliation,nand forgiveness. Morenimportantiy, when the competitionnwas played out over hundreds ofngenerations, only the cooperativenstrategies survived. In a chapterncowritten with geneticist WilliamnD. Hamilton, Axelrod outlines anpossible evolutionary scheme forncooperation: cooperating groups arenbetter able to secure benefits fornthemselves, even in the midst of anpredominantiy uncooperative population.nGenetic kinship provides anpossible mechanism for cooperativengenes to emerge since family membersnderive the greatest advantagesnfrom altruistic ads. Once that happens,neven a small number of cooperatorsncould take over a noncooperativenpopulation, while the reversenis impossible.nIn a fascinating digression, Axelrodnanalyzes the emergence of cooperationnbetween enemy troops innWorld War I. Two sides entrenchednacross from each other tacitlynagreed not to shell each other atncertain times (like mess call) andnavoided sniping each other, when­ngeneral issue specimens are like Housman’s mercenariesnwho “defend [or more often attack] the sum of things fornhire.” Against all ideologues and propagandists, it should benwar under the black flag: take no prisoners, show nonmercy—and crudest of all—pay no attendon.n—Thomas Flemingnnnever possible. The two sides werennot allowed to fraternize, and thenofficers did everything to frustratenthe TIT FOR TAT arrangementsnwhich the soldiers arrived at implicitiy.nBut all the efforts of the HighnCommands went for naught untilnthe senior officers accidentallyncame up with a plan of carefullynmonitored, incessant aggression. Innthe atmosphere of uncertainty creatednby constant raids, the unspokennreciprocal agreements quicklynbroke down.nI cannot recommend this bookntoo highly. The ramifications fornforeign and domestic policies arenfar-reaching, and Axelrod makes anstart at exploring some of them. Henmakes the important point that ifnwe really want to promote cooperation,nwe must “enlarge the shadownof the future.” Obviously, if a playernthinks the game is coming to annend, cheating works to his advantage.nPlayers and partners will benmore cooperative if they think theynare in the game “for the duration.”nFrom this perspective, a weddingncan be seen as “a public act designednto celebrate and promote thendurability of a relationship.” WhatnAxelrod might have also pointednout is the destructive effect of easyndivorce: it teaches partners to distrustneach other (hence prenuptialnlegal agreements) and, perhaps,neveryone else.nWhen the day comes that we arenunable to take each other at ournword, the New York Stock Exchangenwill shut down and thenwhole system of American business,nbased on promises, will collapse.nThen we shall have to turnnfrom the gentle Axelrod to the philosophersnof power; Machiavellinand Marx.nAUGUST 1986119n