New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This paper continues the analysis of political theory in the Hebrew Bible. In earlier work I argue that the Garden of Eden story explores why people have an obligation to obey the law. The narratives that follow describe a “Dark Age” characterized by accelerating violence and ending in a catastrophic flood. These texts expand the analysis of the Eden narratives by asking whether human beings can achieve a good and decent life in the absence of government and law. The narratives describe an experiment in which people interact strategically in an environment where cooperation can generate a surplus but defection is always possible. The message of the Dark Age texts is people cannot achieve a good and decent life in the absence of government and law. The story of Noah’s Flood expands the analysis by arguing that human beings can achieve a good and decent life in the presence of government and law. The Tower of Babel story explains why, even with government and law in place, human societies do not achieve their full potential.

Date of Authorship for this Version

3-2010