The Initial Bargaining Position: Rights and the Proviso

David Gauthier

in Morals by Agreement

Published in print May 1987 | ISBN: 9780198249924
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597497 | DOI:
The Initial Bargaining Position: Rights and the Proviso

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Takes up the questions of the initial bargaining position and the initial factor endowment, raised in Chs. 6 and 4 respectively. We reject James Buchanan's identification of the initial bargaining position with the outcome of non‐cooperative interaction, and John Harsanyi's identification of it with the threat point. Instead, we argue that, as the basis of market and cooperative interaction, it must rule out all taking of advantage—bettering oneself through worsening the situation of others. We term this condition the ‘proviso’, deriving it from Robert Nozick's interpretation of Locke's insistence that in acquisition, one leave ‘enough, and as good’ for others. We show how the proviso constrains directly maximizing behaviour, and we then demonstrate its role in introducing a structure of individual rights to person and property, rights that define each person's initial bargaining position and factor endowment. We show that the proviso satisfies our standard of impartiality, and why rational persons would accept the proviso, as part of a narrow interpretation of compliance with the requirements for cooperation. We show that cooperation in the absence of the proviso tends to be unstable, and to depend on ideologies, entrenched historical factors, and differential technologies, all of which undermine the equal rationality of persons on which an impartial morality depends.

Keywords: compliance; cooperation; impartiality; individual rights; initial bargaining position; initial factor endowment; proviso; rationality

Chapter.  17663 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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