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Negotiating Rational Choice, Statistics and the Future of Mankind

 

(right:  Bueno de Mesquita's "Logic of Political Survival")

The book at right was brought to my attention for the first time by this highlighted text in Good Magazine: 

In the foreboding world view of rational choice, everyone is a raging dirtbag.

What makes the Logic of Political Survival Relevant to negotiators is Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's application of game theory to international political problems such as the reduction of conflict between Israel and Palestine (quoted below).   

I'll have to admit that his claim to "produce a settlement [in litigation] that is 40 percent better than what the attorneys think is the best that can be achieved” -- also caught my attention and should draw my attorney readers into de Mesquita's world, first from Good Magazine's article The New Nostradamus and (at the end of this post, today's article in the Sunday New York Times).

First, de Mesquita's own words on the Middle East.

In my view, it is a mistake to look for [peacemaking] strategies that build mutual trust [between the Israelis and the Palestinians] because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason. . . . 

Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’

Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat. 

The "rational" solution?

 In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their main source of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don’t come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsive to the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It’s completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that’s that.

It actually gets much more controversial and interesting than this -- the "kicker" to the headline in Good Magazine reads:

Can a fringe branch of mathematics forecast the future? A special adviser to the CIA, Fortune 500 companies, and the U.S. Department of Defense certainly thinks so

If that intrigues you, you'll want to read the entire article here.  And you'll also want to read today's New York Times article on de Mesquita,

Can Game Theory Predict When Iran Will Get the Bomb?

 

Comments (1)

Read through and enter the discussion by using the form at the end
michael webster - August 17, 2009 1:11 PM

The NY Times article is much more balanced, pointing out that de Mesquita has terrific interviewing skills, and that his computer calculations are designed to predict the formation of coalitions.

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