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Monday, April 12, 2010
Towards a New Paradigm, Part 2
In the previous article, I promised to offer a possible solution to a seemingly impossible situation. How do you get liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and others to cooperate on an election strategy when they don't communicate or trust one another?
First, let's look at the problem I mentioned first. How do you get people to coordinate their strategies when they're not communicating?
Actually, people do it with surprising regularity. For example, let's say that two people have agreed to meet at the Takashimaya Department Store, but they somehow neglected to say just where in the building they'd meet. Counting the parking garages on the eleventh and twelfth floors, and the basement, we're talking about thirteen floors. What would they do if they didn't have cell phones?
In this event, each is influenced by what he thinks that the other would do. The store has three entrances, two of which can be seen from one spot. If they came by foot or by bus, they'd most likely look for one another in the spot that offers a view of the two entrances.
According to a study conducted a few years ago, about a hundred subjects were divided into fifty pairs. Each member of each pair, without being allowed to communicate with his “partner,” was presented with the same hypothetical challenge: Meet your partner on a certain day somewhere in New York City.
Strictly by the law of chance, none of them should meet his partner. In actuality, many of them did. A surprising number of them chose the information desk at Grand Central Station at 12:00 noon. That choice of spot and time was reasonable, accessible, and prominent. (The Statue of Liberty wouldn't have been as accessible.)
Let's get back to the two men at the department store. If one came by car, he'd get off at one of the top floors. If the other came by bus, he'd get off at the ground floor. They may still choose to meet at the front entrance unless some other place is more reasonable, accessible, and prominent. If they'd agreed to meet for lunch, they'd either head for the basement area or one of the higher-class restaurant area on the tenth floor—probably the latter.
Why might they choose the tenth floor and not the front entrance? The key word is signal. Knowing that they were going to meet for lunch was a signal as to how they might find one another. It doesn't have to be a strong signal; it doesn't always have to be reasonable. If it's the only signal of which they're aware, that’s the signal they'll probably follow.
Suppose, on an earlier occasion, the wives of the two men had met in the lingerie department and they'd spoken of how quickly they'd made contact. As unreasonable as it may seem for two men to meet in a lingerie department, that may be where they'll look for one another.
Remember that word signal. I'll get back to it later.
You may remember the Kobayashi Maru scenario described in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was designed to be a hopeless dilemma, especially since the computer was allowed to cheat in order to guarantee that the cadet would lose. Erstwhile Starfleet Cadet James T. Kirk managed to overcome the no-win scenario by secretly changing the program. “I don't believe in no-win scenarios,” Kirk smirks. Rather than expel Cadet Kirk, Starfleet Academy praised him for his “original thinking.”
Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians likewise face a Kobayashi Maru, and the computer's programmers are allowed to cheat in order to assure our defeat. Like Cadet Kirk, we need to change the game's program.
Elections are designed to be zero-sum games for the voters but incremental wins for the Establishment. This allows the other side to present liberals, conservatives, and libertarians with a no-win scenario: Vote only on ideology and be willing to settle for a half a loaf rather than none. We end up accepting a candidate whom the organized crime syndicate on the Potomac finds more pliable.
Voters are conned into thinking that they're “voting for the lesser of two evils.” More often, however, voters are choosing between an evil candidate (the presumed lesser of two evils) and one who simply disagrees with us on matters of policy but not necessarily on objectives. The sooner we grasp these facts, the more easily we can change the game from a zero-sum conflict (which, by design, we must lose by increments) to a mixed-sum game of mutual dependency.
Mixed sum means that the different sides (conservative, liberal, and libertarian) stand to gain from the outcome, although not in the same degree. By getting honest people into Congress, many voters will at least get a representative who tries to represent the people and will listen to them, even if his ideology isn't what we'd prefer. Some voters will get both the honesty and the ideology they'd prefer. In many cases, the alternative is to elect liars who say at least half of what we'd like to hear during the campaign, and then betray their constituents once they're elected.
Mutual dependence means that the behavior (in this case, voting behavior) of each side must depend on what they believe that the other sides will do. At this point, none of the three sides (conservatives, liberals, and libertarians) have much reason to trust that the other sides will do what is best for all. A confidence-building measure is needed.
I told you to remember the word signal in the sense that I'd used the word earlier. What could each side do simultaneously that would manifest that confidence-building measure? We have little reason to believe that the three sides will be freely communicating with each other by November 2. Then what signal could be sent that would encourage all sides to manifest this confidence-building measure no later than November 1?
I'll present my ideas on that on the next page.
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