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The Prisoner’s Dilemma Model

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Prisioners’ Dilemma is a model that exemplifies how difficult cooperation is when there are incentives to cheat. It demonstrates that the best possible individual outcome results in the worst possible collective outcome. The best individual outcome is then independent of the possibility of mutual gains, as each actor lacks reasons to cooperate because it is likely that the other actor might cheat. In order to increase the likelihood of cooperation, Oye and Martin recommend that actors should avoid single-play conditions because multiple interactions reduce the likelihood that actors will cheat. Moreover the authors also defend that actors can write treaties with foreknowledge that other actors may cheat. Lastly the delegation of authority to an intergovernmental organization can also help overcome the likelihood of cheating, as these organizations can provide neutral enforcement, and thus change each actor’s understanding of costs and benefits gained from cheating.

States choose either hard or soft law based on which level of legalization can serve their interests. According to Abbot and Snidal, “the choice between hard law and soft law is not a binary one.”1 States prefer soft law when there is uncertainty about the future or the costs of the agreement, when flexibility is desired, or when states seek a compromise. Whereas hard law is more appealing to states when the incentives to cheat are high, when states desire to enhance credibility, when it is hard to enforce compliance and noncompliance can be imperceptible. In addition, when a current legislator fears that future legislators may oppose to an agreement, hard law becomes a tool that increases the costs of withdrawal from agreements. In situations where there are incentives to cheat, that is, a Prisoners’ Dilemma situation, states are more likely to prefer hard law because high levels of legalization increase the costs of cheating and increase the credibility of commitments.

Soft law’s flexibility and low levels of precision are not advantageous when actors seek to decrease the likelihood that others will cheat. Moreover as Abbot and Snidal argue that even though hard legalization entails higher costs on states sovereignty, “States typically accept these costs in order to achieve better collective outcomes-as illustrated by solutions to Prisoners’ Dilemma.”Forum shopping refers to the ability states have to choose the intergovernmental organization (IGO) that is more likely to respond to their cause with sympathy. Many IGOs often overlap in the issues they cover, so competition arises. States are free to choose the IGO in which national interests are more likely to be advanced. However forum shopping does not only reflect a state choice. It has implications for the future use of IGOs, as these organizations may vary in scope, voting procedures, level of bureaucracy, and other factors. In consequence, constant forum shopping can lead to the prevalence of an IGO over others that address the same issues.

In these cases, forum shopping may diminish the utility of IGOs rather than demonstrate their strengths. Transsovereign problems are issues that trespass national borders and require multilateral action in order to be solved. The solution to these issues demands that states cooperate, but there are barriers for cooperation in transsovereign problems. For example, as the number of actors involved in an agreement increase, it becomes harder to reach consensus. Moreover transsovereign problems do not impact only states. Non-state actors such as nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations, interest groups, and others may also be involved, and might have interests that differ from state interests. Furthermore states may be unsure about what is the solution to a transsovereign problem, and states may only adapt solutions accepted in both national and international level. Forum shopping can be a tool for states to address transsovereign problems under the conditions that best protect national interests. However this tool can undermine the efforts to solve transsovereign problems.

As states seek preferable regulations in IGOs, the actual ability to solve transsovereign problems may be reduced if states pursue looser regulations. In addition, transsovereign problems cannot be solved regionally. So when states utilize regional IGOs in lieu of global ones, the transsovereign problems will persist even if regional efforts can alleviate the impact of transsovereign problems. Efficiency is a term that implies comparison with the alternatives. If international governmental organizations (IGOs) are considered efficient, it means that IGOs can solve transsovereign problems better than the alternative solutions to transsovereign problems. States have other options other than create IGOs, such as to debate issues bilaterally or rely on simple reciprocity. Yet states create IGOs, which indicate that IGOs are a more efficient solution to transsovereign problems than the alternative options. Nonetheless efficiency does not equate to effectiveness.

Just like the alternatives, IGOs cannot always overcome transsovereign problems. The centralization and independence of IGOs allows these organizations to be effective, because these factors provide important bureaucracy and credibility. The democratic deficit is a term that refers to the lack of accountability of IGOs, as states may be unaware of how IGOs make decisions. IGOs need centralization in order to gain the ability to solve the problems that they are created to address. According to Karns, Mingst, and Stiles, “closed IMF or Security Council meetings and consensus decisionmaking often limit accountability, because there is no published record of activity and states’ positions.” Nevertheless, as IGOs become more centralized, it becomes harder to hold IGOs accountable. IGOs that manage problems in which there are no incentives to cheat will be less centralized because enforcement will not be required. Thus the democratic deficit varies in intensity among IGOs, based on the degree of centralization.

There is a trade-off between the democratic deficit and the efficiency of IGOs. Many actors desire that IGOs should be more accountable. However more transparency can undermine the process through which actors reach decisions. As IGO expose meetings rather than being secretive, external political pressures can take place, and might make an agreement that was previously accepted now impracticable. In accordance, Karns, Mingst, and Stiles argue that “the dual challenge for making global governance accountable is one of balancing the needs for transparency and openness with the need for efficacy.”4 Therefore if actors desire more transparency, it is then necessary to take into account how openness may reduce the effectiveness of IGOs. Battle of sexes is a model that explains how cooperation works for problems in which there are only two possible outcomes, and cheating results in no gains. The core issue of the battle of sexes is then guaranteeing that the preferred outcome will be chosen, rather than minimize the likelihood of cheating. Once an agreement is made, cheating provides no gains for states.

In consequence, Martin argues that “coordination games [battle of sexes] do not require institutions with strong mechanisms for surveillance and enforcement.” The scope of IGOs indicates how many issues an IGO concentrates on. In order to increase the prospects for cooperation, states may include or exclude topics. Several factors can impact the scope of IGOs. For an example, the higher the number of actors and the differences among them, the greater the chances that the scope may be enlarged so that agreements can be materialized. Moreover if an agreement benefits some actors while others carry the costs, the scope is also likely to be expanded. This expansion occurs because actors who benefit must make the agreement appealing to those who carry the costs. Therefore the scope of IGOs reflect actors’ prior negotiation process, and the factors that impact the likelihood of cooperation. Issues that follow the model of the battle of sexes have implications for IGO scope. The number of actors in the battle of sexes does not influence the IGO scope.

In problems like the battle of sexes, states lack motives to cheat, so even when the number of actors increase, the likelihood of cooperation does not change significantly. Thus even with an increasing number of actors, the battle of sexes will not lead to an increase in IGO scope. Moreover the differences between actors do not impact the IGO scope for battle of sexes problems. While power does matter for the establishment of outcomes in the battle of sexes, the settled outcome is simply a matter of preference. Consequently the differences between actors do not demand that the IGO scope must be extended in order to make the agreement to work. In addition, in the battle of sexes there is no asymmetries regarding who benefits and who carries the costs. The battle of sexes reflects only a preference, rather than an issue that can benefit some actors at the opportunity cost of others. As the battle of sexes does not translate to gains or costs, this model does not provide reasons to increase the scope of IGOs.

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