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Thursday, December 22, 2016

EXPOSED ONCE AGAIN FOR THE FRAUD I AM

Jonathan Culp offers the following comment:  “While we're on this topic, I think it would be wonderful if Bob could give us some commentary on Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's "The Logic of Political Survival" and/or "The Dictator's Handbook." Since Bob is well-versed in rat choice but not mystified by it, I think we could really learn a lot. BdM uses rat choice to build a theory of political incentives which could explain why Wallerstein is right about the need for constitutional limitations and why violent revolutions often end so badly.”


Far be it from me to pull back the curtain, like Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and reveal the Wizard to be nothing more than an old fraud pumping a smoke machine, but I had never so much as heard of “rat choice.”  So I went to Google and came up with this essay, which I have just finished reading.  I have to confess it did not inspire me to seek out the writings of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita.  Give me some time to look into it and see whether it is something I want to devote time to.

11 comments:

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I thought the writer of that comment was just too lazy to type "rational choice/game theory", and shortened it to the inelegant "rat choice".

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Nope, rat choice theory actually is a thing. It is the claim, about ends, that people not only act in instrumentally rational ways, whatever their goals, they also act in selfish self-regarding ways [i.e, like a rat, colloquially speaking.] Not exactly a conceptual breakthrough.

Matt said...

The author of the linked piece, Ed Rubin, was one of my professors at Penn Law. (He now teaches at Vanderbilt, where he was the dean for a while, though he is now just back on the faculty there.) He's a smart guy who has done a lot of good work, especially about administrative law, especially in relation to judicial supervision of prisons. But, his discussion of philosophy is not, in my opinion, that good. Whenever he wrote about it or talked about it, I always thought he was really missing what was going on, didn't understand the arguments, etc. So, while this paper might be useful, I am skeptical, given the significant amount of discussion of philosophy in it.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I read it because it told me the meaning of a term I had never heard.

I. M. Flaud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Trump's tweet today: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes"

Jonathan Culp said...

I'm sorry, my esteemed friend behind the curtain. I did just mean rational choice/game theory. The stuff you covered in your wonderful formal methods tutorial. I don't think Bruce BdM is *rat* choice, though his theory assumes that leaders prefer to stay in power and maintain control over discretionary funds and prioritize the former. It would be very interesting to hear your thoughts, but I know you are busy. Sorry for the confusion!

Jonathan Culp said...

By the way, I have a friend who spent some time at the U of Chicago, and he always referred to rational choice theory as "rat choice." I guess I just assumed that was a common nickname for it. At any rate, Bueno de Mesquita uses it to develop what he calls the "selectorate theory," which seems to me to have pretty good predictive power. I was just looking for someone much smarter and well-versed than myself to give a critical assessment of it.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

sigh. And there you had me read an entire journal article for nothing. :) That is my entire month's journal reading! I will try to hunt up this chap Bruce BdM [no relation, I trust, to bondage and discipline, or sadism and masochism.] If I can figure anything out, I will report back.

Tom Cathcart said...

Way off topic, but needed to share this:

https://www.thenation.com/article/thinking-about-committing-civil-disobedience-in-the-age-of-trump/

I. M. Flaud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.