Pure Pedantry

Game Theory and the Super Delegates

Jay Cost at RCP uses a prisoner’s dilemma game to show why the absense of institutional structures is likely to yield a socially inefficient result in the Democratic primaries. He looks at the super delegates’ behavior in terms of what is good for them vs. what is good for the party:

The core problem is that the Democrats have empowered the super delegates to break a tie, but they have not empowered anybody to manage the super delegates. There are no rules that demand the super delegates convene and discuss with one another. There is nobody in charge of regulating the debate. There is nothing to punish the super delegates who are small-minded, nothing to reward the big-minded. There are no time restrictions that require them to make up their minds prior to the convention. They are wholly unfettered.

Thus, the super delegates have a great deal in common with a mob. They’re a mob of experienced, qualified politicos who care about the party. If the Democratic Party were to be put at the mercy of a mob – this is the mob you’d want. But it is a mob nonetheless. This is why large institutions – like the House and the Senate – have reams of rules governing member behavior. If the members of those institutions are to do their jobs ably, they need a framework for interaction. Otherwise, their talents may be squandered amidst the chaos.

Read the whole thing.