Just to attempt to summarize and wrap this up, then, you found my article’s criticism of neoclassical economics facile because you think free market theory can be patched up with game theory, which predicts that governments could steer the society towards a plus-sum outcome (in which everyone wins something), by regulating the economy to protect certain common values, via boycotting or bargaining with the very transnational corporations that have captured the government, the legislators, the campaign process, the accounting firms, the corporate media, orthodox economics, and many voters (by the proliferation of libertarian think-tank rhetoric, astroturf movements, Fox News, etc).

So game theory’s fixing of free market economics happens in an alternative universe in which the dominance hierarchy isn’t the default social order for most of the animal kingdom. In the present universe, game theory models the decisions made by people mainly in so far as they’re instrumentally rational and self-centered and thus in so far as they struggle to produce or maintain a society that enshrines some form of dominance hierarchy, such as free-market capitalism.

As you said, garbage in, garbage out: input all the power dynamics that make for the human approximations of the dominance hierarchy and that make nonsense of the liberal-conservative dichotomy, and you receive as output the type of society that celebrates neoclassical economics and makes socialist or progressive uses of game theory idle. Essentially, the amorality of game theory (or of rational choice theory more broadly) is consistent with the social Darwinism that’s at the root of free-market capitalism.

Do I have that about right?

Thus you say, “Game theory says only that to change the behaviors, you need to change the pay-offs. Often, that takes a crisis.” The crisis would be the destruction of this universe and the creation of one in which it weren’t so easy for the intelligent animals that evolve to fall back on their amoral, godless programming. The deviation from all of that requires elite social conditioning from philosophy, religion, and art, which makes those enlightened agents “irrational” according to the egoistic assumptions of most uses of rational choice theory.

When you say game theory is a neutral tool like a hammer or a sickle that have no revolutionary potential, you evidently err, since physical tools can interact with the real world. You can use a weapon to assassinate a leader, thus instigating a revolution. By contrast, rational choice theory is meant to be a fantasy that happens to have some predictive, pragmatic value—just as monotheism or Aristotelian teleology can be tinkered with to predict how nature will behave. The fantasy or “as-if” reasoning doesn’t engage directly with anything; it’s an unfalsifiable part of our faith in the values of Western society; that’s why I say it’s cultish.

You asked me to define my terms regarding the likelihood that game theory would support a preference for socialism over free-market capitalism. But I’m not going to bother trying to reinvent the wheel.

As SM Amadae says in Prisoners of War: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy, “Orthodox game theory assumes that actors must be strategic, or individualistically competitive against others, and thus rejects joint maximization and shared intention, and reduces preference satisfaction to narrow self-interest.” She concedes that some game theorists ‘expand individualistic maximization to permit team reasoning or joint maximization…However, because game theory tends to treat other actors as “complex objects” that can be incorporated into instrumental action, it loses the moral grounding of treating other agents as ends in themselves with human dignity.’

The capitalist bias is built into the individualistic assumptions that the rational agents are strategizing, competitive, self-interested maximizers of their utility. Those just happen to be capitalist rather than socialist or other anti-capitalist assumptions. Big coincidence, I guess.

Regarding the relevance of game theory’s origin in the Cold War, see Amadae’s other book (besides Mirowski), Rationalising Capitalist Democracy: The Cold War Origins of Rational Choice Liberalism: “The preeminent status attained by rational choice theory throughout American academia is indistinguishable from the vital Cold War activity of reconstituting democratic theory in the wake of Hitler's and Stalin's transgressions against humanity…Rational choice scholars simultaneously rebuilt the theoretical foundations of American capitalist democracy and defeated idealist, collectivist, and authoritarian social theories.”

By the way, as I said, I’m not a liberal or a progressive. Thus, I’m not in favour of egalitarian redistribution of wealth and I don’t oppose the Fed for socialist reasons. You read those values into my statements of certain historical facts. I’d be in favour of the prosecution of white-collar fraud and of those responsible for a virtual plutocratic coup in the US, the latter two factors being largely responsible for the creation of its gaping, dehumanizing wealth inequality—except that American society would come tumbling down if the too-big-to-fail institutions went bust and if most Americans came to see that their society’s “progress” works like a Ponzi scheme.

We have to put our faith in something. God’s out, so it’s billionaires to the rescue. I just wish they used their sociopathy and their being beyond good and evil for a more Nietzschean purpose, to show what our new values should be. In other words, I wish those power elites showed some signs that they’re capable of acts of heroic creativity, that such grotesque wealth accumulation doesn’t just monstrify the wealthy.

Anyway, thanks for reading the article and for driving me to brush up on my meager knowledge of game theory.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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