A buy-in problem is when people are in a societal dilemma* (i.e. conflict of individual and group interest) where solving the dilemma would change the individual-level incentive structure such that cooperation becomes preferable. An example would be anti-Semitism- it’s in the group interest, but strongly disincentivized at the individual level. But if everybody were already doing it, it would be strongly incentivized at the individual level to continue doing it.
For a more normie-accessible example, I genuinely believe slavery is driven by the desire to be better than other people, and is a net individual negative, economically. And I believe this need for domination primarily exists because women see dominating slave owners as sexy. So in my opinion all these efforts to drive down wages are an elaborate form of social dominance signalling to impress women. Soul of which, as noted by Led Zepelin, was created below. Hence, I see the right’s gleeful arrogance while moralizing about the poor being stupid, and the left’s blithe dismissiveness about the dangers of flooding the labor market with 3rd world peasants as fundamentally the same: a desire to impress women, like peacocks, with one’s ability to increase the downward pressure on economic mobility stats and still acquire resources oneself.
Present company excluded, of course. We are gentleman scholars here, not strutting cocks. I, for one, have never felt the need to show off in front of a woman. Anyway, thank God that, for the most part, we don’t have to keep a bunch of literal slaves around anymore just to keep our wives from sleeping with the neighbor. When you look at it that way, the prospect of wearing a feather boa doesn’t seem so bad.
It’s not always a good thing to resolve the dilemma. For example, I think the buy-in problem is the only thing protecting us from a future of self-driving cars. Nobody wants it, but they would want it if it were already normal. Fortunately, it appears TPTB will lose their economic base before they can usher in that nightmare dystopia. They lack the propaganda power to make Boomers want self-driving cars and Millennials don’t have the industrial wherewithal to make them a reality.
*For an expansion of “societal dilemmas” see the sidebar prerequisite titled Trust between neighbors is the cultural basis of civilization. I consider The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff to be the sequel to Schneier’s book, since surveillance is just pre-emptive security via information asymmetry. Or maybe it would be more precise to think of it as buying an option on future enforcement of The Rules, either via targeted particularist morality or automated universalist morality.