Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

September 2008

Game Theory

Game theory has long been a useful way to devise and analyze various business tactics and strategies. The term “inside baseball” refers to the nuances of the game, not its scores. Hardball, spit ball, and beach ball can be used to categorize press questions. Hardballs are tough; spit balls are dirty; and beach balls are easy to handle.

So ... here’s an attempt to use my version of game theory in order to better understand how our democratic separation of powers works.

It’s not been uncommon to hear people claim that President Bush has lied about the reasons we’re in such an Iraqian pickle. Jimmy Carter promised the American people he, and those in his administration, would never lie. Heck, the first George W. — he of cherry tree–whacking fame — supposedly could not tell a lie. 

Therefore, while I have a lot of issues with the current president, continue to admire Jimmy Carter, and marvel at Washington, I’ve got to give the president a pass on the lying thing. You see, presidents have to play poker, and, in poker, you must be deceitful to win. Bluffing, buying pots, even folding with a pretty good hand are important parts of the game. You can’t cheat, but you can lie.

Contrast the judiciary and executive branches of government. Executives play poker; judges play golf. In golf, you have to tell the truth — even if you’re the only one who knows the ball moved when you grounded your club behind it. Judges don’t give gimmees. Even if everyone knows the defendant is guilty, if the prosecution breaks a rule, the judge rules the bastard must go free — rules are rules.

The legislative branch of government is basically like the game called tug of war. It’s all about getting more people to help you pull the other side into the pit. Checks and balances, see. Presidents play poker, judges play golf, and legislators mud wrestle.