Saturday, October 29, 2005

Game Theory and Gloriagate

The EconBlogger at Go Figure had a recent post on the Nobel Prize for Economics this year:
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A pair of game theorists who defined chess-like strategies in politics and business that can be applied to arms races, price wars and actual warfare won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday. Israeli-American Robert J. Aumann and U.S. citizen Thomas C. Schelling won the award for research on game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that uses models to study interactions between countries, businesses or people.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is of course a Doctor in Economics who is currently embroiled in our biggest spectator sport: the Game of Politics.

So I found it rather interesting to apply the scientific work of this year's Economics Laureates to the ongoing conflict that is called Gloriagate (for which the root-and-branch of the most honest telling of sources, facts and opinions, can be found here in case you are unfamiliar with the whole sordid mess.)

Here is the BBC's summary of the Nobel citation for Prof. Schelling:
Professor Schelling was among the first to apply the insights of game theory to international relations, looking at the nuclear arms race in his classic book The Strategy of Conflict. Professor Schelling used game theory to explain nuclear war He argued that the capability to retaliate was more useful than the ability to resist an attack, and that uncertain retaliation was more credible than certain retaliation.

For a while it certainly looked as if the Palace had lost the ability to resist wave upon wave of attacks in the form of explosive controversies over wiretapped conversations, anti-jueteng crusades, investigations, insincere speeches (MP3), disappearing commissioners. And a failed impeachment attempt.

But if one reviews the events of the last six months of Gloriagate, it was truly the Presidency's awesome power to retaliate or to reward both allies and opponents, at every step of the escalating crisis, that has won a reprieve for the beleaguered President.

That power to retaliate or reward rests in the insane proportion of control over the financial resources of the government that is vested in the chief executive, a power run rampant when the House of Representathieves hast lost all moral stamina to discharge its duty of oversight, and is largely complicit with the Palace in its fiscal profligacy and chaotic economic thinking.

In the case of the failed 2005 impeachment bid, the Palace always had the means to make either VERY GOOD things or VERY BAD things happen to the district of any particular Congressman, or to his or her political friend or foe. This ability to inflict pain or grant pleasure at the most microscopic political level was the hidden hand of coercion that produced that marathon session of Congress that quashed the impeachment process, produced a declamation contest among some of our most macho men in public life and turned turned them into under-the-saya sycophants by the magic of the Palace's arsenal of delicious carrots and deadly sticks.

Thus, even though the administration was black and blue all over from the machine-gun series of controversies and attacks that led up to the impeachment battle, in the end, it was, as Schelling has noted, what really mattered was the ability to retaliate against any particular Congressman who might be inclined to indulge the impeachment move. Cooperation was enforced not only by such blandishments of the purse as the Palace wields, but also the ability to convince such vacillators of the uncertainty of the opposition's cause, and the variety of the retaliation for defectors.

But there are a number of silver linings in the cloud of intellectual dishonesty that has descended as a result of people having to acquiesce to a railroaded result. A number of people have proven to their admirers that they have not lost themselves or their principles, such as Rep. Roilo Golez (Representative of Paranaque, formerly the National Security Adviser of GMA, graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the US Naval Academy at Annapolis); while others have found themselves, such as Alan Peter Cayetano and Edmundo Reyes, who are new and refereshing voices in Philippine politics, and with moral fervour burning, if you know what I mean. Hopefully too, the Young Turks have learned a lesson in merciless parliamentary tactics.

You could call the Game the Palace played with Congress during the impeachment battle MAD or MAR for "Malacanang Assured Destruction" or "Malacanang Assured Reward".

There is another name for it::: blackmail.

1 comment:

abe said...

DJB at his best . . .