Friday, March 15, 2013

Bad At Chicken

For the past couple of weeks, we have seen story after story about how awful, how capricious, how counter-productive the cuts of sequestration are.  Well, yeah.  Of course.  The idea was to create a chicken game where both sides (Obama and the GOP in Congress) would be forced to compromise (swerve) rather than crash. 

But it didn't work.  They failed to compromise so we are the survivors of the car crash.  One problem here, and a foreseeable one, is that repetition (iteration) in Prisoner's Dilemma provides incentives for cooperation, but not so much so for Chicken if I remember correctly.  If you know you are going to playing Chicken over and over again with the same player, it makes sense to be insane/uncooperative in the first round so that you can the other side to give in then and all the way down the road. 

Of course, the other problem is that these two player games ignore the fact that there are games within games.  The GOP is divided, and faces the prospect of primary races against folks even less reasonable (hard to imagine?).  So, each Republican must position themselves as unwilling to compromise for fear of losing to some candidate who never had to make a decision that had consequences.  Lovely. 

So, I raise two possibilities: that the future of the game casts an unfortunate shadow on today's game or that the other games--the outbidding primary process--make the rational play for one's narrow concerns be irrational for the collective. 

If it is simply the case that these folks do not know how to play chicken, I provide this video to illustrate:

However, from outside observers, it looks more like this:


Brandon Valeriano said...

But in this game, both sides had their foot caught on the tractor. Horrible game of chicken really. And reaching on Mad Men, nothing everything relates.

Steve Saideman said...

Ah, but the guy with the foot hit by the tractor is not one of the players but an innocent bystander--the US. You pick the person hurt by sequestration. The pain might be intense, but the long term damage is only significant based on perceptions (the Brits basically send this guy down to the minor leagues since he no longer looked right).