Friday, 29 September 2017


Two individuals, three choices.

The previous posts have shown that we are different, we live in plural societies both nationally and internationally; and, that having these differences in mind we may result in having situations similar to either zero sum games or non-zero sum games.


When we have different parties and these parties may want the same object, we may have a “conflict of interest.” A conflict of interest between individuals or States can only happen when more than one part is involved. In addition to this, each of these parties want exactly the same object… or at least, that is what may seem at first. Indeed, it may not be as simple as sharing an orange or cutting a cake.


Following this line of thinking, sovereignty disputes are an example of conflicts of interest. That is to say, we have several parties that want the same object. We have Argentina and the United Kingdom wanting to be the sole sovereign over the Falkland/Malvinas islands; we have Russia and Ukraine wanting to be the sole sovereign over Crimea; we have China, India, and Pakistan wanting to be the sole sovereign over Kashmir. There are many cases similar to these ones around the world, but by now, you get the idea.

One of the main differences between a simple conflict of interest over an object and a conflict of interest based on a sovereignty claim is the fact that the territories being claimed are populated. Thus, in most of these sovereignty conflicts or disputes, none of the main parties or sovereign States seem to recognise the will of the peoples who actually live in the claimed territories.

Let us leave for now the particularities of sovereignty conflicts or disputes and explore whether there may be a solution to conflicts of interest at the level of the individual. If this is at all possible, we may be able to replicate the procedure and apply the adapted methodology to sovereignty conflicts or disputes.


We agreed that any conflict of interest would have at least two parties. In the case of civil societies, at least two individuals. Let us imagine a world in which we only have two people, Good and Evil. Face with the world on their own, these two people will have limited options:


a)           They may become enemies

b)           They may  become neither enemies nor allies

c)           They may  become allies


Let us assume they became enemies. If Good and Evil became enemies they would be against each other, compete against each other, ought to defend against each other. Even more, the surrounding environment, with all hazardous situations and dangerous beings, would find them in solitude. Finding food and shelter would be up to each of them and their individual provision. Finally, if they needed each other to propagate the species, the species would be condemned to extinction.

Consider now Good and Evil neither becoming allies nor enemies. They would not be against each other, compete against each other, so in principle, they would not need to think of defending themselves from the other. Yet, they the surrounding environment, with all hazardous situations and dangerous beings, would find them in solitude. Finding food and shelter would still be up to each of them and their individual provision. More importantly, their species would be condemned to extinction. It is true that, similar to some animals,  Good and Evil might agree to have sexual intercourse and separate afterwards or choose to do certain other activities for a particular reason and over a period of time. In any case, although they may agree to do certain things together, there will be no constraint on either of them to fulfil any obligation in respect to the other.

Let us now think of the case in which Good and Evil decided to become allies. The most obvious consequences would be that Good and Evil would confront the surrounding environment together, they would help each other in providing food and shelter, they would protect each other against hazardous situations and dangerous beings, they would propagate the species, and so on.

Is this last case scenario the best option for Good and Evil in a situation in which they are the two only individuals from their species on the planet? Is this the best outcome for both? Certainly, this agreement does not guarantee justice and fairness. Far from an egalitarian approach, Good and Evil may agree on a different king of alliance. That is, there might be more than one way to cooperate and, these ways might offer differing payoffs. For example, Good may be better off under one method of cooperation; on the contrary, Evil may be better off under another arrangement, even though both are better off under either of the two than if they refused to cooperate. In an extreme scenario, both Good and Evil may be better off by one of them being subservient.
Whether Good and Evil have a proportionate, fair and just agreement or one in which one of them becomes subservient of the other, the point is that in a case in which we have two individuals in a similar environment and under the same circumstances that challenge them, they may agree to cooperate in a way or another for both their common good. More precisely, by giving up some individual sovereignty, power over themselves, or autonomy, Good and Evil would have a more ample range of possibilities to choose from.

The question is whether we could extend this analysis and apply the methodology to sovereignty conflicts or disputes in which sovereign States are claiming the exclusive sovereignty over the same populated territory. How would it be possible to acknowledge the pluralism we find in international relations and offer a solution to sovereignty conflicts? In what way would it be feasible to create the same platform for discussion to peoples that are different and self-centred and are discussing over limited resources? That is to say, in cases in which there is only one populated territory (and therefore, this is a very limited item) how may different parties agree to go into negotiations?


Jorge Emilio Núñez
29th September 2017

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