Tony Blair’s Prisoner’s Dilemma

by Peter

6 September 2006, 1712 EDT

The Prisoner’s Dilemma. A Political Science classic. You can, quite honestly, make an entire career of using it to explain just about everything that goes on in the world.

Despite that fact, it still teaches us many, many interesting things, one of which is the importance of the “shadow of the future.” When you start to play a series of PD games over time, the shadow of the future looms large. Thanks to Robert Axelrod, we know that the best long term strategy for an itterated game of Prisoner’s Dilemma is a cooperative tit-for-tat. Now, the cooperation of tit for tat works so long as you expect the game to be played again tomorow. A second, but equally important lesson, is that the minute the players see the end of the game in sight, they stop playing for the long run and start playing for the last move.

Hence, Tony Blair is SOL.

Today we see “7 British Officials Resign in Revolt over Blair.” After winning his third term, Blair promised not to remain Labor leader for a 4th term. The next election in the UK is 3 years away. Yet, the Labor party is already looking to dump Blair for Gordon Brown or someone else. Why? Sure, there are politics, local elections, and what not. But, our old friend the PD tells us that, with the end in sight, the smart move is to defect early. So, dump on Blair, get Brown in there, and ride that ticket (or rather, she’s got a ticket to ride…).

Don’t be the last guy (with his finger and his thumb in the shape of an L on his forhead) standing next to Tony Blair, waiting for him to resign.

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