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The Benefits of Committees

The Benefits of Committees

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Published by cosmouse

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Published by: cosmouse on Apr 19, 2011
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11/11/2012

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The Benefits of Committees
Conventional wisdom by members of the NSO and those who agree withthem is that committees are generally useless and should be avoided at all costs.This is something with which I highly disagree. In fact, it is odd that committeeshave the reputation that they have among a group of people who believe the World Assembly should only be dealing with the most important issues in theinternational system. As an International Federalist, I believe committees play animportant role in global governance. To understand why, we should look at the twotypes of broad issue areas in which the World Assembly deals. Aside from these twoareas, there are also practical and organizational uses for committees.
Solving Common Aversions
The first issue area that the World Assembly deals in is solving issues of 
common aversions
. These are issues where all states have an interest in
avoiding 
acertain outcome. The most commonexample here is which side of the road todrive on. Neither actor particularly caresif they drive on the left or the right side of the road. However, everybody involvedwants to avoid getting into a collision. Inorder to do that, the actors need to ensurethat they
both
choose to either drive on theleft or drive on the right. If they choose toact independently, there is a high risk that they will choose different options, andboth end up with a 0,0 payoff 
 – 
getting into a collision. The solution here would beto coordinate their actions. They need to get together and decide which side of theroad to drive on. Once they come up with a decision, the solution is self-enforcing.Neither side has any incentive to start driving on the opposite side of the road. If they do, it will result in a collision. In the context of the World Assembly, solvingproblems of common aversions does not require the use of a committee. It issufficient enough to pass a resolution setting down the rules. Once the rules are
 Actor B Actor A 
B
1
B
2
  A 
1
1,1** 0,0 A 
2
0,0 1,1**
Basic game theory form for common aversions.It is possible for actors to have differentpreferred outcomes. In that case, compromise isgenerally necessary.
 
established, nobody has any incentive to
“cheat,” therefore organizations
(committees) are unnecessary.
Playing the Assurance-Provider
The second area is more complicated. This issue area is solving issues of 
common interests
. Problems of common interests occur when actors have dominantpreferred outcomes that are different from one another. In other words, Actor A 
’s
preferred outcome leaves it gaining more than Actor B
’s preferred outcome, and
vice-versa. The most common example here is the Prisoners
’ Dilemma.
The scenariois that you and your friend are arrested for robbing a bank. The police don
’t have
enough evidence to convict either of you, although you are unaware of this fact. So,they give you a choice: rat out your friend and you
’ll be set free. The best possible
outcome for both you and your friend is if you both are set free and split the loot:this is Choice 1, and result in a 3,3 payoff. Individually, the best outcome for you isif you rat out your friend, but he stays quiet. In that case, your friend will go to jailand you
’ll
get all the loot for yourself.The ultimate result of this scenario is that you will rat on your friend andyour friend will rat on you, meaning you
’ll both be in jail and will both end up with
the worst collective outcome possible. Why? It is not because you are both self-interested and tried to get the loot all for yourself. That plays a part, but it is mostlybecause you cannot trust your friend to
not
rat you out. You know that, just likeyou, your friend
’s best possible
individual outcome is to rat on you and get all theloot for himself. Knowing this, it would not make sense for you to stay quiet: there
’s
too much a risk that your friend will talk and you
’ll go to jail. Your friend is
thinking the exact same thing. In the end, because no assurance can be given thatyou won
’t rat on your friend and your friend won’t rat on you, both of you guys
choose to talk.
 
This is highly analogous to an armstreaty. It is highly difficult for two states toagree to reduce their arms, because neitherstate can be assured that the other won
tcheat and increase their arms while theother reduces theirs. Absent any assurancemechanisms, both states will refuse toreduce their arms; they
ll increase their arms; and ultimately, both states will beworse off security-wise, because now there are more arms in play. One of the mostimportant functions of the World Assembly is to provide assurance. The mostimportant issue in the international system is security, and assurance is anabsolute necessity in formation of security agreements, like arms reductionresolutions. As an International Federalist, I do not favor simply writing down thatarms should be reduced and having faith that states will comply. The Prisoners
 Dilemma shows that, without failure, states will not comply. It is within their bestinterests not to.
Other Beneficial Uses
Outside of solving common aversions and providing assurance in problems of common interests, committees also have practical and organizational uses. First of all, when we create committees to provide assurance, we need to staff thosecommittees and pay for the operations. This has led to the creation of the General Accounting Office, a committee dedicated to assessing and collecting annualpayments that keep the World Assembly running. Technically, this is also aproblem of common aversions
 – 
all actors have a common aversion to the World Assembly being rendered useless, for whatever reasons (acting as an assurance-provider could be one, for example)
 – 
but it
s simpler to refer to this as a practicaland organizational use for committees.Second, when problems of common aversions have divergent interests,committees may be useful. When common aversion problems have divergentinterests,
cheating
incentives tend to form over time. This means that, to use the
 Actor B Actor A 
B
1
B
2*
  A 
1
3,3 1,4 A 
2*
4,1 2,2**
** = equilibrium outcome* = actor
s dominant strategy

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