Sunday, October 30, 2005

Game Theory

I am such a geek - I think it's fun to see applied mathematics in the news. From James Galbraith in the HuffPo, on the subject of "A Few Very Simple Thoughts on Plamegate":

4. If you were Dick Cheney, how would you feel about this? You don't know, you can't know, how Libby's feeling right now; that information is locked up in Libby's head. But you do know that he doesn't know, for sure, whether he can expect help from you. And you can't tell him, can you? At this point, Libby is beyond your control. If you have something to hide that he knows, you have to take it on faith that he won't divulge it. That being so, exactly how do you plan to handle your testimony at Libby's trial? This is, well, the prisoner's dilemma. It's set it up so that if Libby delivers Cheney, he will be better off than if he doesn't. And Cheney knows this now.
Brush up on your game theory here.


At 3:04 PM, Blogger Dark Wraith said...

Good afternoon, Arachnae.

That proposition is the classic "degenerate solution" to the four-state Prisoner's Dilemma paradigm.

Unfortunately, this problem should be contemplated by backing up to the so-called "mini-max" solution: Libby and Cheney must each choose the strategy the will minimize the maximum damage that could be done.

In Libby's case, the maximum damage scenario is conviction on the worst of the five counts, which would entail a fine of $1.25 million and a sentence not to exceed 30 years.

For Cheney, the maximum damage scenario involves being charged under Title 18 of the US Code Section 371, which I believe could result in life imprisonment.

This is where side payments with guarantees come into play in game theory. The word among conspiracy theorists is that Libby has been provided what is essentially a $30 million option, most of which is from Dick Cheney: Libby exercises the option by keeping his pie hole shut and taking the fall; otherwise, Libby—and more importantly, libby's family—ends up essentially penniless and destitute.

As the side benefit, just as George H.W. Bush pardoned, among others, Elliot Abrams as a reward for the containment of the Iran-Contra scandal to ranks below the Oval Office, Libby can be promised (although the promise is entirely unenforceably) a pardon down the road.

Will Libby bite? If he's being offered $30 million and possibly other benefits, what does he have to lose? Federal prosecutors are not known for cutting sweet deals with people after the indictments have been issued. At best, Fitzgerald could offer a plea on one obstruction charge, which would get Libby out in three to five; but even that's unlikely. Moreover, what's Libby going to do after his three to five? Become another John Dean, writing interesting articles (with awful grammar) for FindLaw that get reprinted by e-mail flooders like

Naw, the Prisoner's Dilemma is far more complex than a four-state model would lead one to believe. In the final analysis, I know for a fact from my course work and use of game theory that the Prisoner's Dilemma was never meant to be used to model a situation where one of the participants was Satan, himself.

The Dark Wraith isn't sure such a situation is even in the textbooks.

At 9:15 AM, Anonymous mmmoss said...

The PD changes somewhat when you are mobbed up. Even though the communication is cut off there is a code, there is the brotherhood, and there are ways of sending messages. So Libby knows life will be better if he stays with the mob, both for him and his family.
I'm assuming Fitzgerald understands the neocon/Bushie crime family and has enough resources to entrap them all.


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