When somebody makes a demand tied to a violent threat --- e.g., holds a gun to a hostage's head, says "Your money or your life", orders a kidnapping victim to cooperate, etc. --- what's the right response? Some years ago it seemed (at least) that there was a correlation between criminal words and deeds. More recently, however, that correlation seems to have vanished.

Maybe the tragic-but-optimal reaction now is:

You say that if I do this then you won't do that --- but the connection is extremely indirect and goes through you, and you could do it anyway, as people like you often have done lately. Why should I believe you and obey you, when you've broken other promises, especially the tacit social one not to assault?

We're in a bad situation: the old game-theoretic optimum has broken down, and "mutual assured destruction" isn't working any more ...

(see also DefensiveQuestions (12 May 2000), OpaqueJustice (29 Jan 2002), DangerousPhrase (21 Apr 2003), ... )

TopicSociety - TopicJustice - 2004-06-20

(correlates: PerversityPrinciple, PitifulLosers, SoundOfBangles, ...)