Zhu Wanrun, Jilin University
Abstract: Our time is a “Age of Rights”, where rights play a predominant role in every aspect of social life, with the right to same-sex marriage as the latest evidence. In my opinion, the two most powerful institutions human beings have ever invented are market economy and rights-based social arrangements. Both of the two topics have been the focus of academic studies for centuries. The difference is that, by now, we have a large body of knowledge about market economy, while there is little knowledge if nothing at all about rights. This fact is even more stunning and unsettling considering that, on one hand, rights are the basis and cornerstone of modern political order, without which, it is hard to imagine how political values such as liberty, rule of law, democracy will be implemented; on the other hand, we have so little knowledge about rights, and most part of the research on rights are based on “normative theory,” which can be summarized in one sentence: we should have rights. Billions of people are living under an institution that we do not know well, isn’t that a miracle?
Why are rights such a powerful discourse? Is there any mechanism behind it? These are the questions this paper aims to answer. In this paper, I will argue that negative rights are long term Nash Equilibria, that is partially the reason why rights are such a powerful language. The paper is organized in this way: in section I of this paper, I will suggest an alternative way of formalizing rights into normal form games; section II will explore rights in an evolutionary game context; Section III will demonstrate the proof of the conclusion that negative rights are long term Nash Equilibria.
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