Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Power Game (2): Trick or Treat?


So what happens to the president and the vice president? They are in this awkward position. Rumor has it; the Vice prefers to run as number one next time, not a sidekick anymore. And that the President is smart enough to have sensed this all along – he is not very happy about that, of course. If these are true, we can imagine a situation shown by this picture. Yes, for those familiar, this is nothing but the famous prisoner’s dilemma situation. Here how it goes.

The table above summarizes the expected ‘payoff’ for each of our ‘player’ in this ‘game’. Each pair of payoffs in the inner cells is such that the first one is the payoff to The VP and the second to The President. But before we go on with the numbers, let me introduce a third (or fourth, if we don’t want to leave out our Great Confessor) character: a smart, world-class TV journalist. The journo knows about this situation between the President and the VP and that they always try to hide it. Letting it appears on the public is just creating damage to the team as a whole, who still has two years to go.

The journo thinks hard how to actually know what each thinks. And suppose he gets this brilliant idea: applying the prisoner’s dilemma game to each of the accused executives. First, he interviews the President privately and promises to him the usual off-the-record disclaimer. At the very same time in a different place, his best friend – also a professional journalist – does the same to the VP. They make sure that both the interviewees can in no way communicate to each other about this. Both journalists tell the interviewees that they have somehow learned that the Judicial System holds evidence against both of them. But the evidence is still not very strong. In the midst of mounting public pressure, the Judicial System has no choice but to offer them a bargain (and now you can look at the numbers in the table).

The bargain says, if anyone testifies against the other (like: it was not me, it was he who agreed to accept the offer from the damn minister), he will be free while the other gets 3 years in jail (this is the lower-left cell and the upper-right cell in the payoff table). If both refuses the offer, each will get 1.5 years, based on the limited evidence the Judicial System now holds (upper-left). But if one testifies against the other and as it turns out the latter also does the same, both will get 2 years (lower-right).

Where do you think our President and VP will end up?

(To be continued...)

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