He confirms that, in the end, I understood what he was saying about trade and morality.
Sorry. I didn't make myself clear. Reciprocity isn't the highest form of cooperation; unselfish altruism is nicer. But reciprocity is an important form of cooperation. If you're part of a group whose norms involved doing good things for other members of that group -- a group that embodies collective social capital -- you ought to obey those norms unless the damage to those outside the group is great. No, I'm not confusing positive and normative propositions. The positive proposition here is that cooperation is useful, and communities that share collective social capital enable it. The normative proposition is that it is right to maintain and build those communities, even at the expense of an absolutely universal altruism.
# posted by Mark Kleiman : 4:11 AM
I think Professor Kleiman's original post was actually clear enough. I did, after all, in the end get the point.
I do have remaining thoughts on who we should pretend to be when we right. Kleiman is discussing the proper policy for the conscience of a nation which isn't as altruistic as one might wish. This is an interesting issue. However, sad to say, Mark Kleiman is not the conscience of the USA.
I guess I will have to settle for his being a commenter on this blog, which is a waste of his time but, for me, a great honor.