© 2008, Humboldt State University
The problem of dirty hands concerns the apparently inevitable need for effective politicians to do what is ethically wrong. This essay discusses a related problem in democratic elections of politicians being unwilling to commit themselves to precise positions on controversial policy issues. Given certain plausible assumptions, I demonstrate using a simple game theoretic model that there is an incentive structure for political candidates that is damaging to the public good. I contrast this problem with the classic prisoner’s dilemma and then go on to discuss some possible strategies for overcoming this problem by an improved system of political debates.
Barnes, Eric (2009) "The Problem of Clean Hands," Essays in Philosophy: Vol. 10: Iss. 1, Article 15.