In Defense of (Some) Vainglory: The Advantages of Polymorphic Hobbesianism

  • Gerald Gaus
Part of the Remaking Economics: Eminent Post-War Economists book series (EPWE)


In this essay I argue that vanity is a Janus-faced feature of social cooperation: as Hobbes stresses, it certainly can lead to conflict, yet it can also motivate enforcing norms of fairness. What Hobbes call “vain glorious” individuals will walk away from “vile and contemptible” Pareto gains. A society composed of both egoists and glory-seekers is thus more likely to stabilize fair terms of cooperation than even the most enlightened society of self-interested agents. Rather than, as in many economically-inspired analyses of social order such as James Buchanan’s in The Limits of Liberty, modeling a society of self-interested agents, we would do better to model polymorphic populations, containing multiple agent types.



My thanks to Chad Van Schoelandt for comments and suggestions; thanks too to fellow participants at the Workshop on Sharing, University of Manchester and the Workshop on Exploitation, University of San Diego. My special thanks to David Wiens for his comments.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald Gaus
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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