back to the original linked article, Shankar Vedantam wrote:
The fault line in this dilemma -- the interests of a candidate pitted against the collective interest of his or her party -- shows up in many economic and political domains and is sometimes called the "tragedy of the commons." Individuals embroiled in similar dilemmas find them impossible to solve on their own, because they are confronted by a Hobson's Choice: Act selfishly and cause collective disaster, or act altruistically and aid someone [i]else[/i] who is acting selfishly. Either way, selfishness wins.
I take some issue with the use of the term "narcissistic" -- I don't see anything particularly "narcissistic" in acting in one's own self interests, even if those self interests conflict with the interests of others or even the interest of the community. Nevertheless, the article is correct that elementary game theory can explain why a candidate like Hillary Clinton would stay in a race long after it has been effectively decided (the author uses the "tragedy of the commons" as an explanation -- it can also be analyzed as a "Dollar Auction"
From a game theory perspective, the most interesting thing now is not that Clinton is still in the race, but that some superdelegates are still committing to her campaign. According to game theory, this shouldn't be happening. When there is an advantage to joining the winning side and a disadvantage to joining the losing side, there should be a rush toward the side that is perceived to be winning or which has already won. That's what's known as "bandwagoning."
Now, it's true that some superdelegates, like Reps. Heath Shuler
of North Carolina and Chris Carney
of Pennsylvania, pledged to support whichever candidate won their districts in the recent primaries, and in both cases it was Clinton. But then there are supers like Rep. Ciro Rodriguez
, who made no such commitment and who endorsed Clinton on May 9, after the results of the NC and IN primaries.
According to game theory, that shouldn't be happening. If it's better to be with the winner than the loser, then Obama should be getting all of the late deciders -- and a lot of Clinton's supers should be switching camps. It's probable, then, that Clinton's late endorsers expect that there are more advantages to backing a loser this time than in backing the winner, or that the disadvantages of backing the loser aren't really all that bad. It's not clear to me what the advantages to endorsing Clinton at this late stage might be, but it's the only way to explain an otherwise inexplicable decision.