Perhaps you were a fan of the movie A Beautiful Mind which was a biographical look at the troubled life of mathematician John Nash. You might be a mathematician yourself, versed in the details of gaming theory, or you might well be sick and tired of so little getting accomplished by the political leaders of this country as they spend more time looking to beat 'the other guys' than they do practicing thoughtful governance.
My guess is that most of you fall into the third catagory. If so, or out of general curiosity, please continue reading below the fold to see what may be done, both theoretically and practically, to get our leaders to lead and so lend hope to our now uncertain future.
Adam Smith posited that self-interest promotes the most efficient use of resources and so results in the best outcome for the wellbeing of the public. John Nash turned that around by suggesting that even in a non cooperative setting (like politics) the best results are attained by acting not with self-interest, but with consideration for the desires and actions of all the players on the field. If I recall correctly, Newt Gingrich accelerated the partisanship in Congress because of two critical changes he made in the way the House does business. Prior to Gingrich becoming Speaker, all freshmen Reps went through orientation together, getting to know one another, enduring similar hardships and experiences, creating friendships that might last for years. Gingrich had each party run its own orientation, so that there was no chance for cross-party relationships to develop from the start of a congressman's term; the other guys were the enemy right from the start. Gingrich also discouraged congressmen from staying in DC while the House was not in session. This has had the effect of preventing socialization between members of the House and further perpetuating the "Us/Them" mentality. Democrats and Republicans have been fighting for advantage with more vigor, expending ever more energy and resources (increasing cost and decreasing utility) to win. Win what you say, doesn't really matter, just so long as we win. Oh, and before you say it's just the other guys who go out of their way to win, I will remind you of the heavy handedness of the DCCC in 2006.
Hubert Humphrey and Barry Goldwater would go at it on the Senate floor hammer and tongs with rhetorical sparks just a flying, but when off the floor of the Senate they were good friends. So what gets the most reward, or utility, for the most people? Two sides hammering each other with gerrymandered districts, strident labeling, expending resources that could be better spent all which reflect the pure self-interest reflected in the Adam Smith paradigm. In the movie, A Beautiful Mind, Nash's epiphany comes while in a bar when he realizes that his male friends will have a better chance of scoring with a woman if they pursue the less attractive women rather than all competing for the same blonde bombshell. If they do compete for the blonde they will block each other, waste resources and, at best, only one of them will gain any "utility" out of the situation. If they work with each other's goals in mind they will have a greater chance of success.
We need Beautiful Minds, people who will communicate with each other, who will have a rational conversation to learn the motives and desires of the other side so as not to block each other in a way that justs wastes resources. So will you do this? Will you have patient chats with coworkers and neighbors? Will you reach out to the right wing bloggers with class, adding comments and posts that might let them better understand your thinking, motives and desires? Here are some websites you might try this notion out on - Rightmarch.com, Townhall.com, Patriotpost, and the Heritage Foundation.
Also, at every opportunity, please encourage your elected officials to engage each other civily and so work for the best outcomes for their constituents. John Nash is certainly a mathematical genius, but his greatest contribution just might be in providing our crowded society with a model of living that let's us be individuals, with individual goals and aspirations, but working in such a way as to provide the best outcome for all of us who must share life on planet Earth.
Thanks for reading.
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