I came across this snippet of an interview of Dr. S Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister.
Ouch! That's hard-hitting by @DrSJaishankar. pic.twitter.com/vLeoPh54Bc
— ?????? (@maisooru) March 13, 2021
In this, among other things, he says that “in India, nobody questions an election” (in the context of some reports that India is not really a democracy).
This can be simply explained by the concept of finite and infinite games, something I’ve spoken here about for a long time now, ever since I read the book of the same name by James Carse.
In general, in a stable democracy, parties don’t question election results because they know that the only way they can get back to power at a later point in time is by winning a similar election. In other words, if a party that loses an election were to question its legitimacy, it’s own victory in a subsequent election can be similarly undermined.
In other words, in a stable democracy, parties play an infinite game, where the potential short-term benefit of questioning an election gets trumped by the long-term benefit of using the same apparatus for winning subsequent elections.
So what explains America and Donald Trump’s questioning of the elections?
Notice that above, I said that “parties play an infinite game”. Individual politicians, on the other hand, can also play finite games. Given his age, Trump pretty much knew that the 2020 election (that he lost to Biden) was likely going to be his last. If he lost these elections (as he did), he would be out of power for the rest of his life. And so it made sense to him to question the results.
I’m pretty sure that the Republican party establishment (or whatever is left of it) wouldn’t have wanted to question the election, because as a party they are playing an infinite game, and what they need is the same election apparatus to come back to power next time round, or some time in the future.
The difference, in this regard, between India and the US, is the form of government. In a parliamentary system (at least in theory), and one with anti-defection laws, the party is supreme. However much a leader tries, he can never be superior to the party. And so the party’s incentives (infinite game) trump’s the leader’s (possibly finite game), and elections are not questioned.
The presidential system in the US means the leader trumps the party, at least within an election cycle, and so Trump’s finite game trumped the Republican party’s infinite game, and the results were questioned.
2 thoughts on “Finite and infinite games, and questioning elections”
or maybe, just maybe – they realise that questioning an election (justified or unjustified) isn’t gonna get anything. If elections weren’t manipulated, then questioninig them makes you look as a sore loser. If they were manipulated, then ………… wait they haven’t been fundamentally manipulated like in US, where Postal workers had a bias to make sure Trump loses. Here in India, all parties make an effort to keep govt. teachers (the bulk of election machine at the polling booth) happy.
Unless it’s Kashmir …….. then people do question, then subsequently fight the same elections in future.