One of my many jobs is to help out with an online course in microeconomic theory. This course utilizes online problem sets created by the textbook publisher, and one of the sets includes the question you see above.

(Dear Internet: Is it prisoners’ or prisoner’s? I argue the latter since it’s a noncooperative game, though I might be overthinking this.)

Anyway, some students objected to the grading of this question on the grounds that the prisoner’s dilemma narrative starts with the observation that two people commit a crime. I…wasn’t sure how to respond to this, since I guess they’re not wrong? I suppose one could argue that the prisoner’s dilemma applies to a number of different contexts of strategic interaction, in which case breaking the law is not a literal prerequisite. Or…one could argue I could just show them this comic.


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