Almost daily, we (public officials, corporate officers and ordinary citizens) employ a strategy called gambling. It assumes that people are rational in their actions with the intention of maximizing gain and self-interest. Sometimes it becomes a “zero-sum” game, where one person’s gain becomes another person’s loss.
At the national level, we have seen or are seeing several decisions being made — rice pricing, and recently importing sugar, then banning it, or we face dilemmas about salt and banning POGOs.
In each of these decisions, the assumption is that there are two groups of actors, individual or collective, who dispute the strategies and decisions taken. Each strategy/decision will have its economic and social costs which are weighted according to agreed criteria.
In the early 1970s, mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern built the theory, with around 12 Nobel laureates awarded for their contributions to enriching the theory.
To determine the optimal solutions for the best possible choices, the costs and benefits for each competing participant are analyzed. Government and corporate decision makers are expected to predict the strategic planning or thought processes of competitors and collaborators.
Today it is applied in business, psychology, biology, economics, political science, computer science and communication. And they have been employed in bidding at auctions, collective bargaining, or negotiating between two positions on new products and stock market decisions.
Game theory strategists are also expected to have a background in these academic disciplines. It is therefore multidisciplinary and each of these sciences essential to ensure more rational decision-making that benefits the common good, and not just the individual or particular interest of a group.
Unfortunately, most decisions at the national level are taken mainly by economists and legal experts. Other disciplines, including psychology and communication and information theory, are not considered important. But psychologists, as we know, are needed for a more intelligent understanding of human behavior, and communication and information scientists are needed to craft culturally appropriate messages and provide effective interaction and feedback.
At the national level, we will need to engage with all audiences beyond traditional elected decision-makers to include members of civil society and grassroots organizations. Some of the critical policy areas include K-12, a “hybrid” and alternative education system, public health and public safety reforms, the justice system, commerce, culture, and more.
Due to globalization and greater interaction between people and nations, we expect decision-making to become more complex. Decisions made at the national level affect the global environment. Thus, decisions made on critical issues such as the future of nuclear energy, the mining industry, relations with ASEAN, the United States and China, the Western Philippine Sea, resources such as Malampaya, to name a few, require a better understanding of the values and interests of external partners and institutions.
The important thing is that while working towards more rational decision-making, we must always put the interest of the common good as well as the national interest above all else.
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