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A Brief Explanation of Baselining

In a state of nature, there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that
to be every man's that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it.
Thus, my ability to utilize a
resource is dependent upon my ability to control that resource. My ability to control a resource is
determined by my ability to fend off warring agents who wish to disconnect me from that resource. My
ability to fend of warring agents is ultimately dependent on my strength as it will be through physical
force that we do battle. Of course, this dependence on strength might be undermined by secret
of an opposing warring agent. However, one particular place that secret machinations
should be forfeited is at the bargaining table.
How we find ourselves at the bargaining table is another matter. In some situations we can better
utilize the resources at hand through mutual cooperation. That is, two agents put down their arms, at
least temporarily, to elicit a cooperative dividend by working together. To describe a cooperative
dividend, take this example: Agent A can generate 4 widgets independently, while Agent B can
generate 2 widgets independently. If Agent A and Agent B cooperate in generating widgets, they
together generate 10 widgets. In this instance, the cooperative dividend is 4, as it is the difference in
widgets produced in the wake of mutual cooperation in contrast to the total amount of widgets produced
had there been no mutual cooperation.
It is clear as to why we would consider a deal in which we cooperate as it enables us to utilize
more of our resources and yield greater production. Naturally, the following question we ask ourselves
is: How do we divide the cooperative dividend between agents? The place from which we begin
negotiating a method for division is the baseline. Locke and Gauthier address the issue in respective

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651; reprint, London, England: Penguin Books, 1985), 188.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651; reprint, London, England: Penguin Books, 1985), 183.
theories on property ownership. Both Locke and Gauthier make claims that agents are entitled to the
fruits of their labour. Viminitz responds by saying that the baseline is not a variation of the Lockean
Proviso, but rather that it is whatever would be the case in the absence of an agreement to the contrary,
given what I can bring to the table.

Thus, the baseline generated by Viminitz is 0 widgets for the weaker agent and 1 widget for the
stronger. This is due to the fact that failing a successful deal to cooperate, both agents re-enter a state of
war and the weaker agent will ultimately fall, at great cost, to the stronger. It is this, Viminitizian
baseline that I wish to take to task.
2. Baselining From Shackles and Chains
Viminitz claims that the only means by which the weaker agent could exit negotiations without
making a deal to cooperate is to have adopted a pre-commitment strategy. A pre-commitment strategy
calls for an agent to adopt an algorithm that will not allow that agent to comply with a deal without both
agents meeting a set of pre-determined parameters. The parameters might simply be that the weaker
agent receives no less than 50% of the cooperative dividend. Failing that parameter of receiving 50% of
the cooperative dividend, there is no deal to be made.
Of course if this deal fails then both agents return to a state of war and the weaker agent will not
survive the battle following negotiations. Thus, we extract Viminitzs baseline from the results of the
battle. However, I say that Viminitz has drawn his baseline from a point that is far too late in the given

Paul Viminitz, GETTING THE BASELINE RIGHT: or why Im right and everyone else is wrong, in each of the two senses of
why, University of Lethbridge (2005): 9.
If it is the case that the baseline is to inform us of a starting position from which we begin
negotiating, then we need to observe what motivates our very first actions in our negotiations. We need
this observation to understand not what kind of deal we are working towards, but rather what kind of
deal we are trying to avoid. Thus in practice, while we are not necessarily at the bargaining table yet, the
very first action that we could possibly take would be adopting a pre-commitment strategy. It seems
obvious that we wish to adopt this kind of strategy such that we want to gain a greater portion of the
cooperative dividend, but it is also equally valid to suppose that we wish to adopt a pre-commitment
strategy as a defensive mechanism. As a weaker agent, by adopting a pre-commitment strategy we can
avoid being exploited by stronger agents in a deal. For example, in supposing that it requires 1 widget
to maintain subsistence, and in cooperation we can produce 10 widgets, the stronger agent can take 9
widgets for themselves and give the weaker agent only 1. Why the stronger agent wishes to keep the
weaker agent above subsistence is simply because the stronger agent will want to perform this same deal
again as it is very profitable. Thus, the weaker agent will need to survive this deal, and furthermore
will need to be kept in close proximity to the stronger agent. In essence, the result of this deal is
tantamount to slavery. Thus, I wish to adopt a 9 and 1 baseline as virtually any pre-commitment
strategy will deliberately aim to avoid the 9 and 1 baseline. That is, the only way we can rationally
adopt a pre-commitment strategy is to recognize that we could be exploited to the extent of becoming
slaves absent a pre-commitment strategy.
Likewise, we must also realize that if a pre-commitment strategy fails, then assuming that we
are the weaker agent, we will most likely die at the hands of the stronger agent. Thus, if we decide to
adopt a pre-commitment strategy we must understand that taking the risks inherent within the strategy
are still more appealing than that of being exploited into slavery. Accordingly, the 9 and 1 baseline
takes precedence over the 0 and 1 baseline proposed by Viminitz.
3. Why Use My Baseline?
My baseline is effective at explaining revolutionary uprisings as well as massive rebellions from
people who are being exploited en masse. In a hypothetical case there would be a mass group of people,
whom I am going to refer as the proletariat, who have become aware that they are being exploited by
another group of people, the bourgeoisie. The proletariat effectively identify themselves as receiving
just enough resources to maintain subsistence while they are effectively giving the overwhelming
remainder of the resources to the bourgeoisie. Thus, in respect to my baseline the proletariat receive 1,
while the bourgeoisie receive 9. When the proletariat identify that they are being exploited, and are only
receiving 1, they then have reason to adopt a pre-commitment strategy, and inevitably the proletariat
will adopt such a strategy. This can be found in 17
century Britain during the English Revolution, the
late 18
century during the French Revolution, and the early 20
century during the Russian Revolution.
When attempting to apply a 0 and 1 baseline to these revolutionary scenarios we can extrapolate
a cogent explanation of the pre-commitment strategy that is available to the proletariat, but we are not
supplied a motivation as for why they might want to adopt a pre-commitment strategy. That is, if we
assume the proletariat are at a baseline of 9 and 1, we can easily assess as to why they would adopt a
pre-commitment strategy as it would be a advantageous deviation from the baseline. However, if we
were to adopt a baseline of 0 and 1, then it seems that we are assuming that the proletariat have always
been in revolt, albeit it is not necessarily violent all the time. Alternatively, we could assume that the
proletariat made a deal that resulted in the a 9:1 ratio of distribution of resources in favour of the
bourgeoisie. However if we assume that the proletariat made such a deal, then we are assuming that the
distribution of 9:1 is preferable to risking a distribution of 0:1, in which case there is no motivation for
the proletariat to ever revolt.
Works Cited
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. 1651; reprint. London, England: Penguin Books, 1985.

Viminitz, Paul. GETTING THE BASELINE RIGHT: or why Im right and everyone else is wrong, in
each of the two senses of why. University of Lethbridge (2005).

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Derek Schimanski

Philosophy 3410: Advanced Ethics
April 7, 2011
Professor Paul Viminitz

Student ID#00129106