02 Jan 2009

Blago Pick: Barack Obama Should Study Game Theory

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“Defiant” Governor Blagojevich has named Roland W. Burris as the successor to Obama’s senate seat. Plenty of people, including the President-Elect himself, had said that Blagojevich shouldn’t name anybody, for obvious reasons. But these people went further: Obama foolishly declared that anyone named by Blagojevich should not fill the vacancy.

Do you see the problem? Obama et al.’s declarations just gave Blagojevich the power to prevent one person from getting the job. I don’t know anything about Illinois politics, but we can easily imagine someone behind the scenes bribing Blagojevich to nominate a political enemy, and thus tarnish that person.

The correct thing, for both game theoretic but also meritocratic reasons, would have been for Obama to say, “I think the governor should refrain from naming a successor, due to the unusual circumstances and the pending charges. In the event that he does throw out a name, I think his recommendation should be ignored, and that the process should unfold as it otherwise would have, in order to determine the best person to serve the citizens of Illinois.”

One final thought: At this point, it is not clear (at least to those of us reliant on newspaper stories) whether the Senate Democrats really have the power to refuse to seat someone named by Governor Blagojevich. But if so, then they are really dumb, for making an empty threat.

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