Checkers or Chess? Effects of Cascades

The studious observer of news headlines can only conclude that many decision makers rarely think about the cascading effects of the actions they propose. Whether the topic matter is economics, foreign policy, or the environmental ecosystem, cascading effects two or three steps removed from a decision can make situations much worse.

We see this in the news every day. A presidential campaign promise to ban lobbyists from political appointments and to enforce higher vetting standards leaves an administration with many senior positions unfilled. This included the Secretary of the Treasury, who squeaked by a modest ethical controversy in the middle of a gigantic economic downturn. Having gained his office, he now has nary a single senior deputy to advise him as he tries to manage a financial problem of ungodly proportions.

Meanwhile, people are outraged about AIG bonuses being paid out while the company is being bailed out. But what about the single mother who’s an AIG executive assistant counting on her $50,000 annual bonus to make house payments? When she appears on the Today Show, crying, whose public relations problem is that? And while releasing the names of AIG persons who received bonuses might be within the letter of the law of transparent government, what if someone at AIG does get physically injured, as threats suggest – will Congressmen cry?

In the midst of all this, people are asking for the Secretary of the Treasury to resign from office. That may be a short term solution to a perceived problem, but who will take his place? Would it be better to have no one working on the country’s economic issues, at this moment?

People – decision makers, the media, and the average person – need to think 40 days ahead rather than four. They need to think 40 years ahead rather than four as well. There are always trade offs. Life is chess, not checkers.

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This post was written by:

Mark Drapeau - who has written 165 posts on Dr. Mark Drapeau.


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Michael Russell - @planetrussell Says:

    It’s amazing how well biological and game metaphors serve to provide a clearer understanding of the economic and (geo-)political world.

    As science continues to discover previously-unknown complexities in the universe, however, it may well be that 3-D chess (boomer culture/Start Trek reference alert) is a an even more accurate metaphor…or not. (Who knows? Maybe it’s more like 12-D chess, where black plays pieces made of dark matter.)

    All the more reason for concern, then, when the level of public discourse on so many critical, current “chess” issues – each with game-changing, long-term global consequences – seems to be not so much at the level of checkers, but tic-tac-toe.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The Perfect Strategy | Restless Nomad Says:

    [...] Which has led me to wonder why are folks so focused on Wall Street or the individual moves of one bank? Is this not a game of chess like Mark Drapeau says? [...]

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