Climate Change And The Prisoner’s Dilemma
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(The above caption is from the website of the Union Of Concerned Scientists (https://www.ucsusa.org/.) The following below is a draft excerpt from a forthcoming book, which amongst other things touches on the prisoner’s dilemma (game theory) and its application for climate change and the Green New Deal.) Suppose there are two prisoners, detained in separate cells, with no way of communicating with each other. We can imagine that the District Attorney knows that she has enough evidence right now in order to convict both prisoners on a lesser charge, but she will only be able to get a conviction on a more serious charge if she can get at least one of them to incriminate the other. The D.A. offers the prisoners a deal, (making it clear to each that the other prisoner is getting the same deal). The deal is this: If you incriminate the other prisoner of a major charge, he will get the death penalty and you will go free, provided that there is no evidence against you. If you both incriminate each other, you will both stay in prison for life. If you remain silent, and the other prisoner incriminates you, then it will be you who faces the death penalty (and he will go free). If you both remain silent, then you will both stay in prison, but for a limited term, on a lesser charge. Suppose you are rationally self-interested, and find yourself in the above situation – what should you do? The other prisoner can either incriminate you or not incriminate you. Suppose first that the other prisoner is going to incriminate you. Since you want to do what is in your own best interest, you want to avoid the scenario in which he incriminates you but you don’t incriminate him (because in that scenario you would get the death penalty). So in that case you should incriminate the other prisoner, being rationally self-interested. Alternatively, suppose the other prisoner is going to remain silent. If you are rationally self-interested, you should incriminate him, for in that case you will go free and he will get the death penalty. So no matter what the other prisoner does, if you are rationally self-interested, you should ‘sing like a bird’ (incriminate!). Since exactly parallel reasoning applies for the other prisoner, he will incriminate you, and you will both end up incriminating each other. This will result in your both getting life in prison, yet if you both had stayed silent, you would have only served a limited term! Paradoxically, *it was not in each individual prisoner’s rational best interest to act according to his individual rational best interest*, in the situation just described. If each prisoner had not acted out of rational self-interest, then they both would have been better off. The paradox is not solved by claiming that since rationally self-interested prisoner A knows what deal rationally self-interested prisoner B is getting, and vice versa, they will both choose to remain silent, since they each can see that if they each choose this option they will each get five years instead of life imprisonment. For suppose that they do (independently of each other) come to realize this – each will soon also realize that if *he* (the other prisoner) is going to remain silent, then *I* should incriminate; since this secures a better outcome for me than five years in prison – I get off free. In fact, since I know that the other prisoner is also rationally self-interested, I know that he will soon reach the same conclusion, and he will thus decide to incriminate me (hoping that I am going to remain silent). In which case it is even more urgent for me to incriminate him, for otherwise I’d face the death penalty. An extremely more serious real-life situation which is akin to the prisoners’ dilemma is that of climate change. Consider a simplified model in this respect: suppose the Trump administration reasons as follows. Either China will continue to refuse to reduce their carbon emissions or they won’t. If they refuse, then it is rational for us to refuse, because if we reduce carbon emissions unilaterally this will hurt our economy relative to China’s. (Set aside for the moment that the effects of man-made climate change are already devastating parts of America). Alternatively, suppose China are going to reduce their carbon emissions – if so, we should still refuse to reduce our emissions since then we will be able to dominate China economically. So no matter what the China does, we should not reduce our carbon emissions, *if we are rationally self-interested*. But since the same sort of reasoning will be followed by China’s rationally self-interested strategists, both countries will refuse to enact aggressive policy in carbon emission reduction. This will produce irreversible globally catastrophic climate change. Most ordinary people would probably say that’s a bad thing - not Trump though. As the prisoner’s dilemma shows, if world-leaders are self interested (Trump: America first, capitalist Warren meeting with Hillary recently to maintain the corporate status quo), one is better off not co-operating. In the context of climate change. This implies that the world will be plunged into irreversible climate crisis on Trump’s America first policy. Perhaps Trump can do an economic deal with China which favors the wealthy in both countries but that deal will not prevent climate catastrophe - in fact the wealthy are looking forward to climate catastrophe as this will usher in the next phase of capitalism, exploiting not just workers but most human life on planet Earth (wiping out most non-human life too). Ironically, given Trump’s public renunciation of Democratic socialism (which he ridiculously tries to equate with communism) he would prefer to do a deal with a communist country to enrich the capitalist 1% in America rather than try to help ordinary Americans affected by climate change. Apparently, America first means the 1% first. Drastic climate change will entail more war (ultimately over water, inhabitable land etc.) which suits the wealthy in the USA and elsewhere - they can withstand climate change whilst the majority of poor people worldwide suffer. The worldwide capitalist economy is debt based (contrary to founding fathers intentions in America). Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison etc. argued that the imposition of the loan based Bank Of England economic system on the American colonies was the main reason for the War of Independence. For example, before the revolutionary war whilst in England, Franklin noted that the richest country in the world at the time had its streets covered with beggars and poor. Around 1764 the colonies were infected with the same unemployment that had blighted England. Later, upon his return to America, Franklin wrote: “The Colonies would gladly have borne the little tax on tea and other matters had it not been for the poverty caused by the bad influence of the English bankers on the Parliament, which has caused in the Colonies hatred of England and the Revolutionary War” Franklin blamed the Revolutionary War on the Bank Of England – a privately owned bank existing purely for profit, which required the English Government to try to ensure that the same sort of central bank held sway in the colonies. Thomas Jefferson (who in the Declaration Of Independence advocated the (Lockean) notion of a natural right (i.e. of the sort that others have a moral duty to respect, which Bernie Sanders advocates in his Medicare For All idea) wrote: “I sincerely believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.” The natural right to liberty, according to Jefferson, was threatened by banking institutions even in the 18th century. James Madison, chief architect of the constitution wrote: “History records that the money-changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.” If people realize that the bits of paper that they work for (or in the case of the American Revolutionary War, risked death for) have no instrumental value let alone intrinsic value, that’s a problem. People who fought in the Revolutionary War realized that the currency they were paid was essentially worthless as it was based on a gold standard which the colonies couldn’t honor since they had no gold (which has no intrinsic value anyway). Basically, the war was fought based on I.O.U.s that could not be honored, and payment was overdue. The misleadingly named ‘Bank Of England’ (which was privately owned by userers, who controlled the English Parliament) was to blame. In place of the Bank of England, we now have the Federal Reserve (which is not Federal and has no reserves). War = debt. More debt, more money, since money is debt. More money, more power for wealthy elite (1%). The same applies in other countries too: in fact world leaders (Trump, Xi, Putin, etc.) must know that war is good for the global capitalist economy from which the wealthy elite benefit. War over water, land etc. kicks the capitalist can down the road for a while longer. What’s next, after the utter uninhabitability of the planet (even for the 1%)? A Jeff Bezosish notion for the wealthy people left on earth to go and live on another planet? That sounds like a Nazi plan writ large, in which not just Jews or homosexuals are deliberately massacred. Trump’s position on climate change advocates that ultimately, the vast majority of the human and non-human population of the earth is killed. Trump seems like someone who is on another planet already. There is still time to avoid such a Hitler-esque climate catastrophe. Only one politician can mobilize for 2020 in America to defeat the modern-day fascism of the kind described above. You know who he is - someone whose moral view is not one guided by self-interest.