As a game theory enthusiast, I sometimes get questions about what would be the most effective strategy in improving our situation in the Philippines. When people ask me this, there is a notion of a utopia that distracts from the reality and makes my answer difficult to take. Addressing such expectations, I’m aware people need an idea of what to strive for or what clues to look out for, to know that all their efforts and suffering are not in vain.
If you’ve heard of what is happening in Thailand, they are clear examples of what it looks like moving towards better horizons. Having more people involved in addressing the shortcomings of government and participating in making things fairer is a very good sign. It’s not a pretty sight to see so many people angry, disgruntled and making sacrifices just to be heard. Change for the Philippines invovled people organizing and holding the country “hostage” because this is the only leverage ordinary people have.
In game theory you cannot expect anyone, no matter how much they claim to be on your side, to REALY promise change unless you have leverage over the other party. Having all the guns (all the leverage), means having never to listen or make good on the promise.
Thomas Schelling, an economist, professor of foreign affairs and author of the Strategy of Conflict helped explain the necessity of making parties accountable in the deals they make. In the same principle that if I want people to believe what I am saying, I will give them the same information to see it for themselves. If I wanted my promises to be credible, there should be a form of leverage the other party can enforce on me should I break it.
We don’t have leverage, unless we have numbers and cohesion. In Thailand, they can paralyze the economy or take away the legitimacy of leader in retaliation.
Do we have that same kind of leverage?
The irony is knowing how some people who like to bash on Thailand for their morals don’t realize they are leaving us in the dust. Another irony is that those who are comfortable have the least to gain and have the least to lose. Those who have the most to gain are those who have the most to lose. Protests, rallies, and boycotts cost days of pay for the people who need the jobs more.
Check www.gapminder.org and compare the Philippines and Thailand.