On Game Theory & “Being Played”

‘The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” — Alexis de Tocqueville

I want to reference a minor example of the outworking of de Tocqueville’s observation that I found on the KCRG-TV9 website.  In that article, Senator Harkin (D-Iowa) is noted to have announced a $100 k grant for a few Eastern Iowa counties to be used “to draw up a comprehensive economic game plan” for six Eastern Iowa counties.  Now, I live in one of those cited counties, and work in another.  Why wouldn’t I think this grant is a good thing?  The answer is inferred in the “public’s money” phrase of that quote.  The Federal Government, which will be funding that grant is essentially a service organization.  It produces no tangible goods that it can sell at a profit.  It acquired the public’s money though taxation.  Senator _______________  (insert the name of your senator) comes to an agreement with the other senators to redirect a fraction of the money collected to convince his constituents that it is in their best interest to continue re-electing him to the office.  He/She is sure this ploy will work based on the game theory premise that the players will act in their own selfish interests.

What we need to ask ourselves when we see these attempts at bribery in operation is this: “Wouldn’t  it be better if instead of sending our money to Washington so my Senator can dole back a little (while telling us what we can do with it), if we kept it and decided how to use it here”?  I submit that these counties would have better economic development if the individuals who sent their money to Washington had been able to keep it to invest in the local community in the first place.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that this Federal grant money used to be OUR money.

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