From characterizing the two principles disengaged by him from the spirit of the camping trip Cohen proceeds to a consideration of the desirability and the feasibility of extending those principles to society at large. 'It is the aspiration of socialists', he writes, 'to realize the principles that structure life on the camping trip on a national, or even on an international, scale'.7 In what follows I shall be concerned only with the second of those two issues, that of feasibility – and with only half of it at that. For Cohen distinguishes two reasons why a society-wide socialism under the aegis of the principles set out in the previous post might be thought to be non-feasible. They are, in turn, limits of human nature and limits of social technology. It may be that people are by nature insufficiently generous to enable the extension of the principles of the camping trip to whole societies; and, whatever the case on that score, we do not at present know how to harness human generosity for such large contexts, in the way that we do know, through markets, how to harness their selfishness.
The rest of Cohen's short book is devoted mainly to this second issue, of the possibility of finding means to harness human generosity; but I, for my part, will say no more about it. I am interested in the motivational question: whether there are limits on human nature such as would defeat the hope that people might come to regard each other on a society-wide scale in the same way they regard their camping-trip buddies. Cohen himself says very little about this other than that he does not see it as the main feasibility problem. Generous propensities, he says, are all but universal; it is just that we do not know how to mobilize them on a large enough scale. I think one can show from his own argument that this is too sanguine a view. Generous propensities are indeed common and widespread. But they are also of restricted strength – and this not only beyond the camping trip context but even within it.
The first doubts I shall express about the spirit of the camping trip, as evoked by Cohen, are merely anecdotal and speculative ones. I do not, myself, go on camping trips and so cannot speak from personal experience here, but in preparation for writing the paper from which this series of posts is drawn I talked to people who have been on them and to people who have shared houses with friends on holiday – a related context – and I heard a certain amount about resentments felt by some participants towards others on account of a perception of free-riding. In among these observations there was also the suggestion from one friend that the sort of open and easy way people have of contributing to the common effort in these situations, of possibly doing more than others, bearing larger burdens and not worrying too much about it, might be less in evidence if the typical camping trip were not for a weekend or a few days but – small-scale as may be – stretched into weeks and months. Then, even as a stranger to the camping-trip experience myself, I dare to wonder whether the principle of common use of privately owned objects is as thoroughgoing as Cohen suggests. If some better-placed people show up with more spacious and comfortable, because more expensive, tents than others, whose own tents accord with their more modest financial means, will there really be an effort to equalize the enjoyment of tent space and other tent-related benefits, or to randomize them in so far as equalization is impracticable?
I shall not, however, pursue these doubts directly. In this form they are footling and merely symptomatic of a larger central question. In order to address this central question, I shall go on to propose a typology of different person-to-person relations where giving and receiving are concerned.
 WNS, p. 46.
(Part 4 is here.)