The Duck of Minerva

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Local Game Theorist Afraid of Credible Commitment, Girlfriend Says

May 3, 2011

The Canard

“All the fake news that is fit to print”

Rochester–Local game theorist Zofran Economakis is afraid of making a credible commitment to his longtime girlfriend, Lisa Johnson, his girlfriend reports. “He tells me that he loves me,” Johnson told the Canard, “but how do I know he means it? He has incentives to dissemble. I need a credible signal of his love for me. Like a big fat diamond engagement ring. And he better engrave my name on it, so he can’t sell it on E-Bay if we break up.”

When contacted, Economakis explained that he taken a serious of escalatory steps to demonstrate his commitment to his girlfriend, including recently moving in with her. “Those are sunk costs. They aren’t insignificant,” he complained. Economakis also recently composed a love letter to his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day, which he sent to her by email. Johnson responded, “I never even read it. Who writes a love letter in Latek? My computer couldn’t open the document.”

For his part, Economakis doubts his girlfriend can credibly commit to the distribution of chores were they to get married. “I would like to delegate the cooking and cleaning jobs to her,” he explained. “But after the ‘I dos’ there is a lot of agency slack. How do I know she is going to not shrink all my shirts?” Economakis is also concerned about moral hazard. “What if she runs up a big credit card balance on our joint card? She knows I won’t risk the lower credit score and I’ll just pay off her balance.”

Economakis has suggested drafting a prenuptial agreement, but there is ongoing wrangling over indivisible issues, like possession of their dog should the marriage end in divorce.

As of press time, Economakis was considering costly signals short of matrimony, such as tatooing his girlfriend’s name on his lower abdomen. “Surely she knows I am not going to be able to run off with some other girl after that,” he said. “And do you know how painful those things are to get? Surely that demonstrates my resolve to stay true. No?”

Economakis and Johnsons’ close friends claim that it would be a shame if the couple split up over this issue. “There is surely a potential deal that would allow them to avoid the mutual costs of a nasty breakup,” says Johnson’s friend since childhood, Janine Jameson. “I hope they reach that frontier.”

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Rathbun is a professor of International Relations at USC. Brian Rathbun received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002 and has taught at USC since 2008. He has written four solo-authored books, on humanitarian intervention, multilateral institution building, diplomacy and rationality. His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in International Organization, International Security, World Politics, International Studies Quartlery, the Journal of Politics, Security Studies, the European Journal of International Relations, International Theory, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution among others. He is the recipient of the 2009 USC Parents Association Teaching and Mentoring Award. In 2019 he will be recognized as a Distinguished Scholar by the Diplomatic Studies Section of the International Studies Association.