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Old 8th September 2020, 12:05 AM   #1
The Great Zaganza
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American Politics is a Prisoner's dilemma game

Americans seem to be trapped in a Prisoner's dilemma game, and instead of trying to cooperate to make things better for everyone, they do their utmost to be the ones to defect, first.

I find numerous analogies in current discourse, which strongly focuses on vilifying the opposition, questioning their motives in any negotiation and the massive efforts to make communication between the sides impossible.

The rhetoric of "triggering the libs" directly translates into "I'm fine with going to prison as long as the other guy is locked up longer than me" .

And then there is clear "tit-for-tat" tactics in Congress and the White House whenever power shifts: norms once broken are not re-established: when one side transgresses, it is considered politically naive not to pay them back in kind.

Muddying the communication by deliberate Fake News and foreign influence campaigns seems to be deliberately aimed at moderates on both sides who would otherwise be able to find common ground.


I don't see any way out of this apart from a focus on very local politics where everyone as to live next to their political opponent every day.
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Old 8th September 2020, 02:15 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Americans seem to be trapped in a Prisoner's dilemma game, and instead of trying to cooperate to make things better for everyone, they do their utmost to be the ones to defect, first.
That's pretty good.

And the really bad news is, it seems to be contagious. Some of the hatred I'm seeing for our PM is just unreal. People seem to think she's evil because of events completely outside her control - the Mosque Massacres & Covid.

It makes it very easy to see why Hillary caused such intense feeling.

Edited by Darat:  AAH part removed.
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Old 8th September 2020, 04:33 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
That's pretty good.



And the really bad news is, it seems to be contagious. Some of the hatred I'm seeing for our PM is just unreal. People seem to think she's evil because of events completely outside her control - the Mosque Massacres & Covid.



It makes it very easy to see why Hillary caused such intense feeling.







[edit-Darat]Content moved to AAH removed.[/edit]
BTW.

Haven't seen any hate towards Ardern.

Just people asking why she hasn't done anything she said she would do.

She will win again obviously due to the Covid thing, but it is more luck of timing than actually achieving anything.

Can give a list of them if it helps.
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Old 8th September 2020, 05:51 AM   #4
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There's a key difference though.

The Prisoner's Dilemma has two prisoners who are more or less equally guilty, so they have equal amounts to gain/lose by leaning/turning on/cooperating with the other.

The Prisoner's Dilemma doesn't work if you have an unpaid parking ticket and your partner in the other room is going down for a tri-state murder spree.
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Old 8th September 2020, 06:00 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Americans seem to be trapped in a Prisoner's dilemma game, and instead of trying to cooperate to make things better for everyone, they do their utmost to be the ones to defect, first.

I find numerous analogies in current discourse, which strongly focuses on vilifying the opposition, questioning their motives in any negotiation and the massive efforts to make communication between the sides impossible.

The rhetoric of "triggering the libs" directly translates into "I'm fine with going to prison as long as the other guy is locked up longer than me" .

And then there is clear "tit-for-tat" tactics in Congress and the White House whenever power shifts: norms once broken are not re-established: when one side transgresses, it is considered politically naive not to pay them back in kind.

Muddying the communication by deliberate Fake News and foreign influence campaigns seems to be deliberately aimed at moderates on both sides who would otherwise be able to find common ground.


I don't see any way out of this apart from a focus on very local politics where everyone as to live next to their political opponent every day.


But this is neither an application of Prisoner's Dilemma game theory, nor is it the underlying point of the game (I've encountered just this in another thread here lol)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma
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Old 8th September 2020, 06:03 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by cullennz View Post
BTW.

Haven't seen any hate towards Ardern.

Just people asking why she hasn't done anything she said she would do.

She will win again obviously due to the Covid thing, but it is more luck of timing than actually achieving anything.

Can give a list of them if it helps.

Uhh this is not a description of Prisoner's Dilemma game theory either.

PD is very specifically an exemplar variety of game theory which illustrates that two rational people (or groups) might choose not to cooperate with each other, despite it ostensibly looking like it's in their mutual best interests to cooperate.
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Old 8th September 2020, 06:22 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
But this is neither an application of Prisoner's Dilemma game theory, nor is it the underlying point of the game (I've encountered just this in another thread here lol)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma
I would argue that it is.

the key attribute of the PDG is that rational participants are kept from coordinating to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

The US system of government is based on the assumption that members will cooperate for the benefit of their constituents. But it has strong mechanisms to prevent one side from achieving a one-sided outcome unilaterally.

What is (relatively) new contempt in which "moderates" and "bipartisanship" is held by the most vocal members of the political sphere. It has become doctrine that unless one party holds all 3 seats of power (preferably plus the SC), nothing will get done; cooperation is portrayed as less desirable than preventing the other side from successfully passing laws, i.e. there is no trust that a bipartisan result will actually benefit both sides.
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Old 8th September 2020, 04:41 PM   #8
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Yeah, the Prisoner's Dilemma is not really an appropriate analogy given that it is supposed to involve two rational actors (a very dubious assumption given there must be asterisks beside "rational" here, and given that the parties are often made up of multiple actors and factions) with equal stake, and who could receive equal punsihments and rewards.

It's difficult to see how they could co-operate when one side, for example, sees it as imperative to own guns to stop the Communist, Islamic, Atheist menace from coming to take away their houses and put them in gulags, and the other side sees it as imperative to prevent the Nazis from taking over. For many, this is a zero-sum game. Any gain for the other side involves a net loss for their own side.
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Old 8th September 2020, 05:05 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Yeah, the Prisoner's Dilemma is not really an appropriate analogy given that it is supposed to involve two rational actors (a very dubious assumption given there must be asterisks beside "rational" here, and given that the parties are often made up of multiple actors and factions) with equal stake, and who could receive equal punsihments and rewards.

It's difficult to see how they could co-operate when one side, for example, sees it as imperative to own guns to stop the Communist, Islamic, Atheist menace from coming to take away their houses and put them in gulags, and the other side sees it as imperative to prevent the Nazis from taking over. For many, this is a zero-sum game. Any gain for the other side involves a net loss for their own side.

There are variants of the Prisoner's Dilemma by now - one of which, for example, involves (say) three people participating in a blind auction (i.e. where they each submit sealed bids, but when the envelopes are all opened simultaneously, only the highest of the bids wins the item being auctioned). And in fact I consulted on exactly this type of PD game during the auction of UK national 3G cellphone operating licences in (IIRC) 2000 or 2001.

And the matter under discussion in this thread does not resemble any of the modern PD variants. Nevertheless, it is certainly a really good example of "whoever blinks first, loses".
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Old 8th September 2020, 11:11 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
There are variants of the Prisoner's Dilemma by now - one of which, for example, involves (say) three people participating in a blind auction (i.e. where they each submit sealed bids, but when the envelopes are all opened simultaneously, only the highest of the bids wins the item being auctioned). And in fact I consulted on exactly this type of PD game during the auction of UK national 3G cellphone operating licences in (IIRC) 2000 or 2001.

And the matter under discussion in this thread does not resemble any of the modern PD variants. Nevertheless, it is certainly a really good example of "whoever blinks first, loses".
Can you explain the variation of Prisoner's Dilemma that you're talking about in more detail? It doesn't sound like PD as I understand it, but I may simply not be understanding clearly what you're saying.
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Old 9th September 2020, 12:28 AM   #11
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Is US politics a perfect PDG?

of course not.


But there is a third person in a PDG that, IMO, plays a huge part in US politics, and that is the detective who wants one prisoner to defect, and doesn't really care who flips first.

There is clearly an incentive in US politics to cause stalemate: there is a widespread sentiment that the less Government does, the better, and that ergo you should stop the government from doing anything.
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Old 9th September 2020, 02:17 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Is US politics a perfect PDG?

of course not.


But there is a third person in a PDG that, IMO, plays a huge part in US politics, and that is the detective who wants one prisoner to defect, and doesn't really care who flips first.

There is clearly an incentive in US politics to cause stalemate: there is a widespread sentiment that the less Government does, the better, and that ergo you should stop the government from doing anything.
Isn't it also worth looking at these kinds of two party systems as being metastable. You go through long periods of time where it is the same parties back and forth and no way in for a new one, then occasionally there is a crisis and the system flips and perhaps one of the formerly irrelevant parties replaces one of the formerly dominant ones.
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Old 9th September 2020, 02:26 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Is US politics a perfect PDG?

of course not.


But there is a third person in a PDG that, IMO, plays a huge part in US politics, and that is the detective who wants one prisoner to defect, and doesn't really care who flips first.

There is clearly an incentive in US politics to cause stalemate: there is a widespread sentiment that the less Government does, the better, and that ergo you should stop the government from doing anything.
I understand why you used the PDG as a metaphor but I think the real issue is that the USA (it’s not just the USA of course) has moved to a “zero sum” approach to all parts of politics and policies. Which means everything is reduced to having to be either a “win” or a “loss” and “compromise” is considered the same as a loss. The idea that both “sides” could with a compromise benefit has disappeared from popular culture. And of course the USA is now headed by someone who personifies this zero-sum attitude.

(Of course this all a huge generalisation so wont be an accurate model but I think it is a key component in understanding the particular problems of today.)
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Old 9th September 2020, 02:30 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Can you explain the variation of Prisoner's Dilemma that you're talking about in more detail? It doesn't sound like PD as I understand it, but I may simply not be understanding clearly what you're saying.
I think LondonJohn may be referring to the wider world of “game theory” rather than just the PD, I found this link to a shortish document that covers auction bidding a while back, it may interest you: https://web.stanford.edu/~ashishg/ms.../Lecture02.pdf
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Old 9th September 2020, 03:13 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
I think LondonJohn may be referring to the wider world of “game theory” rather than just the PD, I found this link to a shortish document that covers auction bidding a while back, it may interest you: https://web.stanford.edu/~ashishg/ms.../Lecture02.pdf
Thanks.

I think you're right. I'm no expert but I know a little about game theory and it sounded like LondonJohn was talking about a game (which would still fall under game theory) other than Prisoner's Dilemma.
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Old 9th September 2020, 03:20 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
I understand why you used the PDG as a metaphor but I think the real issue is that the USA (it’s not just the USA of course) has moved to a “zero sum” approach to all parts of politics and policies.
Which, I think, is why the thread title is misleading; the Prisoner's Dilemma is quite explicitly a non-zero sum game, that's the whole point.

Dave
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Old 9th September 2020, 03:24 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
Which, I think, is why the thread title is misleading; the Prisoner's Dilemma is quite explicitly a non-zero sum game, that's the whole point.

Dave
I suspect if we analysed the example being described we'd find it wasn't actually zero sum.
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Old 9th September 2020, 03:46 AM   #18
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But is political cooperation really zero-sum?
Or is it just being portrayed this way by people happy with the status quo?

Healthcare is immensely popular on both sides of the political spectrum, and a bipartisan bill that would make people's lives better would be a political win for both parties.
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Old 9th September 2020, 03:52 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Is US politics a perfect PDG?

of course not.


But there is a third person in a PDG that, IMO, plays a huge part in US politics, and that is the detective who wants one prisoner to defect, and doesn't really care who flips first.

There is clearly an incentive in US politics to cause stalemate: there is a widespread sentiment that the less Government does, the better, and that ergo you should stop the government from doing anything.
Now I am really not sure what you are saying. Are you saying it is stalemate now? Who are the participants? Are these prisoners the Republicans and the Democrats? And who is the detective? Is that Putin?

Is the idea that Putin is trying to make the Republicans defect (I am assuming they are defecting, right?), and then they get the rewards of being in power... but wait.... no, that doesn't make sense because then it is not stalemate. It was stalemate when Obama was president and the Republicans were in charge of the Senate...

Sorry, could you please clarify this, as I am confused.
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Old 9th September 2020, 04:28 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Can you explain the variation of Prisoner's Dilemma that you're talking about in more detail? It doesn't sound like PD as I understand it, but I may simply not be understanding clearly what you're saying.

I don't know of any definition of "Prisoner's Dilemma" other than the one related to economic game theory.

Does it now have another - colloquial - meaning? Because I'm also under the impression that the very term "Prisoner's Dilemma" did not exist prior to it being used to describe a type of game theory.
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Old 9th September 2020, 04:48 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
I don't know of any definition of "Prisoner's Dilemma" other than the one related to economic game theory.
Indeed. But you were the one talking about variants of the Prisoner's Dilemma...

Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
There are variants of the Prisoner's Dilemma by now - one of which, for example, involves (say) three people participating in a blind auction (i.e. where they each submit sealed bids, but when the envelopes are all opened simultaneously, only the highest of the bids wins the item being auctioned).
I think Roborama wants you to explain this variant of the Prisoner's Dilemma. The explanation that you appear to have posted is not the Prisoner's Dilemma.
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"Evolution and Ethics" T.H. Huxley (1893)
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Old 9th September 2020, 05:20 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
I don't know of any definition of "Prisoner's Dilemma" other than the one related to economic game theory.

Does it now have another - colloquial - meaning? Because I'm also under the impression that the very term "Prisoner's Dilemma" did not exist prior to it being used to describe a type of game theory.
My understanding is that Prisoner's Dilemma is a specific game (with specific payoffs for specific outcomes). I am asking if that's your understanding as well, and if so could you describe the game, so that we know if we are talking about the same thing?

Thanks.
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Old 9th September 2020, 05:25 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
My understanding is that Prisoner's Dilemma is a specific game (with specific payoffs for specific outcomes). I am asking if that's your understanding as well, and if so could you describe the game, so that we know if we are talking about the same thing?

Thanks.


I already described it upthread, as well as linking to the wikipedia article about PD which explains it more fully.


But in short (again), the whole point about PD is that it examines a situation in which rational actors make choices which appear irrational (in that the choices don't appear to match with the optimal expected outcome for any actor). It's nothing to do with a scenario in which (say) two people are simply weighing up whether or not to "rat the other one out", but without the specific structure of expected payoffs which are an integral (and crucial) element of PD, and which make the conundrum - and apparent paradox - what it is.

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Old 9th September 2020, 05:45 AM   #24
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Also the Prisoner's Dilemma assumes the "Best outcome for both sides" is what people really want.

People will choose self harm to get back at other people for the stupidest and pettiness of reasons way more than you'd think.
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Old 9th September 2020, 06:21 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
I already described it upthread, as well as linking to the wikipedia article about PD which explains it more fully.


But in short (again), the whole point about PD is that it examines a situation in which rational actors make choices which appear irrational (in that the choices don't appear to match with the optimal expected outcome for any actor). It's nothing to do with a scenario in which (say) two people are simply weighing up whether or not to "rat the other one out", but without the specific structure of expected payoffs which are an integral (and crucial) element of PD, and which make the conundrum - and apparent paradox - what it is.
My understanding is that Prisoner's Dilemma is a specific game with a payoff matrix that falls into a specific class of values. An example is as follows (this is from Darat's link, specifically talking about Prisoner's Dilemma, by the way):

ETA: The payoffs don't need to be exactly those values, but the distinguishing features of PD are that both players defecting is a worse outcome (lower payoff) for both than both cooperating, but better (higher payoff) than cooperating when the other player defects, and that the highest payoff comes from defecting when the other player cooperates.
ETA 2: The payoffs listed S = cooperate and W = defect (actually S= remain Silent and W = bear Witness, but you get the point).
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Old 9th September 2020, 06:31 AM   #26
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LondonJohn, perhaps there's some misunderstanding. Reviewing the thread you seem to know what Prisoner's Dilemma is. But you mentioned a variation which involved 3 players and a blind auction. That doesn't sound like PD to me, which was why I asked you for some details about it.

"Prisoner's Dilemma played with 3 people" could make sense, but I'm having a hard time understanding how the blind auction fits in. That simply sounds like a different game (which is probably quite interesting in it's own right).
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Old 9th September 2020, 06:32 AM   #27
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Great, it's the 3 Blind Prisoner Problem.
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Old 9th September 2020, 06:36 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Great, it's the 3 Blind Prisoner Problem.
Actually that's starting to sound more like American Politics after all...
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Old 9th September 2020, 06:55 AM   #29
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American politics is like Monty Hall giving you a choice between a door containing a Trolley Problem and a door containing the Ship of Theseus, in a forest with no around around to hear it.
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Old 9th September 2020, 07:20 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
American politics is like Monty Hall giving you a choice between a door containing a Trolley Problem and a door containing the Ship of Theseus, in a forest with no around around to hear it.
Last time round the election was won by a brain-in-a-vat.
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Old 9th September 2020, 10:45 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
Isn't it also worth looking at these kinds of two party systems as being metastable. You go through long periods of time where it is the same parties back and forth and no way in for a new one, then occasionally there is a crisis and the system flips and perhaps one of the formerly irrelevant parties replaces one of the formerly dominant ones.
The last time that happened was in 1860. However, I am of the opinion that the Republican party will die and the Democrats will split. OTOH, given the (to me) inexplicable popularity of Trump, the death of the Republican Party may be wishful thinking on my part.
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Old 9th September 2020, 10:53 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
American politics is like Monty Hall giving you a choice between a door containing a Trolley Problem and a door containing the Ship of Theseus, in a forest with no around around to hear it.
Well, very often it's more like there are two doors and there are goats behind both of them.
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Old 9th September 2020, 11:21 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
Well, very often it's more like there are two doors and there are goats behind both of them.
But the one that also has shemp is solidly in the losing category, no?
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Old 10th September 2020, 02:23 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Americans seem to be trapped in a Prisoner's dilemma game, and instead of trying to cooperate to make things better for everyone, they do their utmost to be the ones to defect, first.

I find numerous analogies in current discourse, which strongly focuses on vilifying the opposition, questioning their motives in any negotiation and the massive efforts to make communication between the sides impossible.

The rhetoric of "triggering the libs" directly translates into "I'm fine with going to prison as long as the other guy is locked up longer than me" .

And then there is clear "tit-for-tat" tactics in Congress and the White House whenever power shifts: norms once broken are not re-established: when one side transgresses, it is considered politically naive not to pay them back in kind.

Muddying the communication by deliberate Fake News and foreign influence campaigns seems to be deliberately aimed at moderates on both sides who would otherwise be able to find common ground.


I don't see any way out of this apart from a focus on very local politics where everyone as to live next to their political opponent every day.
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