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Re: towards a theory of reputation

>On Mon, 20 Nov 1995, James A. Donald wrote:
>> Any attempt to discuss and analyze reputations using
>> morally neutral language is bound to wind up as boring long
>> winded meaningless complicated word salad.

At 12:19 AM 11/22/95 -0800, Wei Dai wrote:
>I don't understand what you mean by this.  Can you give an example to how 
>to discuss reputation (i.e., the concept of reputation, not a particular 
>reputation) using morally non-neutral language?

Under current circumstances, where we have a large oversupply of
free government supplied retributive violence, the most important
from of reputation is "credit rating", which indicates willingness
to pay ones legitimate debts and perform contracts.

Willingness to fulfill ones obligations is not at all the same thing as
willingness to act in a way that improves other peoples utility.

Fulfilling an obligation assumes normative criteria.  Any
attempt to describe credit worthiness in terms of its effect
on the utility of creditors misses the point.  

Before the nineteenth century, when most governments were reluctant
to provide adequate retributive violence, and were more concerned
with collecting taxes than upholding law and order, the most 
important form of reputation was the reputation for being a 
"gentleman" which encompassed both willingness to pay ones 
just debts and "gentle" conduct, gentle conduct meaning that 
you were unlikely to kill or harm people without good reason,
but did not require that you went around performing good works.

Now if someone has a reputation for good workmanship, this might
seem non normative, but such a reputation is a mixture of two 
components:  "X has good quality products" which is not normative
and is a fact rather than a reputation, because it does not involve 
a prediction of future behavior" and "X will fulfill the spirit 
and intention of a contract" which is a reputation, and is normative.

For example although in principle X might have simultaneously have
reputation for good workmanship and a reputation for not paying 
his debts and not delivering on contracts, such a combination 
would seem unusual and surprising.
We have the right to defend ourselves	|   http://www.jim.com/jamesd/
and our property, because of the kind	|  
of animals that we are. True law	|   James A. Donald
derives from this right, not from the	|  
arbitrary power of the state.		|   [email protected]