Saturday, September 28, 2019

Motivations, Strategies, And Politics

     A few informal definitions of important motivational states to lead off what’s likely to become a rather...impassioned column:

  1. Charity: When you actively desire that another should do well, irrespective of the effect on you.
  2. Indifference: How another is doing is of no importance to you, apart from any effect on you it may have.
  3. Jealousy: When you regard another’s gains as properly yours and work to take them from him and secure them for yourself.
  4. Envy: When you actively desire that another come to harm even if that should mean that you, too, will come to harm.

     There are circumstances in ordinary life that will bring us into contact with each of these four states in other persons. Recognizing the other person’s controlling motive is critical to adopting the proper strategy for oneself. I’ve made use of this in my fiction:

     He reached for his wallet and drew out a dollar bill.
     “We’re going to play some games.” He held up the bill as if to study it. “One dollar equals one hundred cents. Let’s suppose we have an auctioneer here, who’s trying to sell this dollar bill, this particular one and not another. Let’s suppose that only you and I are here to bid. All bids must be multiples of five cents. How much do you bid?”
     She smirked. “Ninety-five cents.”
     He nodded. “Very good. Now explain.”
     “Any lower bid can be profitably topped. Any higher bid yields no profit.”
     His smile was subtle, but there was definite pleasure in it.
     “Doesn’t that imply a particular objective?”
     “Well, yes, but what other reason could there be to bid on a dollar bill?”
     “Think hard, Christine. Give me three.”
     She pondered.
     Now I know where Louis got his style from. So acquiring a dollar’s not the objective. What, then?
     “It’s a collector’s item, so it’s worth more than a dollar.”
     “Good. Another.”
     “There’s a code written on it that would allow me to open a safe full of money, or diamonds, or something.”
     “Very good. One more.”
     She thought hard.
     “My objective is not to gain something for myself, but to deny it to you. And if you get hold of that dollar bill, I won’t be able to stop you.”
     His face went slack, and she wondered if she’d said something foolish. He stepped to her side, bowed, and proffered her the bill with a slight flourish.
     “You take this home,” he whispered, “and have it mounted in a fancy frame, and put it on your wall, some place where you’ll see it every day. Louis chose well.” There was a hint of exasperation in his voice. “Even in this, he has surpassed me.”
     She hesitated, then took it from him. Even with his stony face, there was no concealing his pleasure.
     “You’re already a fighter. You will be a warrior.”

     The core art of strategic planning is determining your opponent’s motives. Since he’s unlikely to email them to you, you must deduce them from his moves – his tactics. Tactics reveal objectives. Over time, objectives reveal motives.

     Take hold of the panic handle and hold on tight, Gentle Reader; I’m about to execute a series of sharp turns.

     Introductory game theory classifies the possible outcomes of two-player games into three types:

  1. Positive-sum: Outcomes in which both players profit.
  2. Zero-sum: What one gains, the other must lose, but no more than that.
  3. Negative-sum: Both players must lose.

     If we regard the decision to play a particular game as voluntary, what sort of motive is consistent with each of the above outcome types? No, I’m not going to answer that question for you. It’s not hard; think about it.

     But what if playing the game is involuntary, a consequence of a compulsion the player cannot resist? What’s the most important item of information he can possibly acquire?

     Exactly: his opponent’s motives:

     “Of all the musts and must-nots of warfare, this one is paramount: you must conceal your motives. Unless he is insignificant in comparison to you, once your opponent knows your motives, he’ll be able to defeat you. He’ll probably even have a choice of ways to do it.
     “You must move heaven and earth, if necessary, to discover your opponent’s motives. His tactics will be determined by them. If his motives change, his tactics will follow. There lies your opportunity, if you can get him to adopt tactics unsuitable to the conflict. Of course, he could try to do the same to you.”
     “What’s the countermeasure?”
     “Constancy. Refusal to let yourself be diverted. Of course, that can be a trap, too. Motive is partly determined by objectives. If your adversary’s situation changes but his objectives remain the same, he could find himself committed to paying an exorbitant price for something that’s become worthless.”
     “And that’s the time to stop playing with his head?”
     His grin was ice-cold. “You have a gift.”

     Your opponent’s motives – what he wants to do to you and what he’s willing to “spend” to do it – will determine everything about his objectives, strategy, and tactics. The same is true of your motives, so you’d bloody well better be sure you’re aware of them...sincerely.

     This acquires amplified force when his entry into the game is voluntary but yours is not.

     If you’ve ever played Dungeons & Dragons, or any similar role-playing game, you’ll be familiar with the following four player types:

  • Rational moral: The player is consistent in his actions and adheres to moral constraints.
  • Rational amoral: The player is consistent in his actions but recognizes no moral constraints.
  • Chaotic moral: The player is unpredictable in his actions but adheres to moral constraints.
  • Chaotic amoral: The player is unpredictable in his actions and recognizes no moral constraints.

     Before a D&D session begins, each player is required to choose one of those four orientations, and to keep it to himself. If he’s sincere about it, it will condition his moves throughout the game. Of course, playing D&D is voluntary. (At least, I don’t know of any involuntary cases.) So the players usually keep their orientations in mind as they choose their moves in the game.

     However, understanding the orientations, and noting those of other “players,” can be of great value in a game one is compelled to play, as well. This is especially the case with regard to the power an economic outlook can have on a player without his knowing it. Such an outlook is best captured in the following plaint:

“Why is he doing this?
What can he possibly get out of it?”

     He who says this when studying his opponent’s moves has assumed rationality on the part of that opponent. That assumption has proved incorrect in a number of important historical cases.

     Unfortunately – and I mean that most sincerely – we’re all compelled to “play the political game” to some extent. That is, even he who chooses not to participate in political events will be affected by the moves of others in the political game. Whether or not Smith votes, the votes of others can affect Smith, whether he likes it or not. Moreover, in our current post-Constitutional milieu, the effect can be enormous.

     Politics is a game whose possible outcomes include positive-sum, zero-sum, and negative-sum combinations. At any given time, some “players” will be playing for gain and will be either benevolent or indifferent as regards the results that accrue to other “players.” But there will be players whose highest priority is to harm others. Some of them will be willing to accept harm to themselves as the price.

     Which of the D&D orientations would best describe a “player” whose top priority is to harm others, even at cost to himself? He might be rational, but is it even thinkable that he consider himself moral?

     Now recur to the opening segment of this tirade. Which of the motivational categories would apply to such a “player?” We can immediately strike charity and indifference from consideration. Jealousy would require that the “player” be avid for gain. What’s left?

     That politics is a multimillion-player game doesn’t much alter the motivational calculus, does it?

     We’re about fifteen hundred words from where we started. I hope you regard the trip as worthwhile. Perhaps by now you have a sense for what I’ve been contemplating. The current political scenario – specifically, the behavior of Democrats in either house of Congress – invites inquiry into their orientations and their motivations. All of them are in politics voluntarily. We who are affected by their antics are not.

     The several gambits aimed at removing President Trump from his office have followed a clear pattern: find someone willing to lodge an accusation against him that implies that he’s illegitimately in the White House. Puff it up through their media handmaidens. Don’t worry about the validity of the accusation; just give it as much air time and as many column-inches as you can squeeze out of the friendly media. Should the accusation be debunked, as all of them have to date, pass on without acknowledging it. Find some new accuser / accusation and try again.

     Inasmuch as the accusations have become steadily weaker, and the accusers ever less credible, as the game has gone on – a series that converges on zero, so to speak – it is appropriate to question the rationality of the Democrats’ strategy. They’re doing the same thing over and over and expecting a change in the result! Didn’t someone say something clever about that sort of behavior?

     The matter becomes even cloudier when we add the consensus of intelligent onlookers that the Democrats’ latest sally – the drive to impeach Trump on the grounds of the laughably feeble Ukraine accusation – will seriously harm them come Election Day. The Democrats might not accept that assessment...but what if they do? What if they agree that their drive to impeach Trump has only a tiny chance of removing him from office but is likely to cost them the House of Representatives and additional seats in the Senate? What would that say about their motivation – whether or not any of them would ever admit it, even to himself?

     I dislike the thought that roughly half of the persons on Capitol Hill are of chaotic mentality and are consumed by envy. I’d imagine that my Gentle Readers would view it the same way. But it’s awfully hard to reach any other conclusion.

     “Presidential authority is confirmed for change of test procedure. Dummy warheads will be replaced by a W-80 thermonuclear device. Have a nice day.” – Never Say Never Again

     Yes, by all means do have a nice day.


pc-not said...

You did it again! In such a concise, logical explanation, you have laid out the exact thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain for the last several weeks. I'm sure many Americans not yet succumbed to brain washing by the progressive government education system have come to a similar conclusion.

The fact that so many on the political left are willing to self destruct due to hatred for the president, proves that jealousy and envy are the base motivators for their behavior. One key phrase that needs repeating is post Constitutional. I might add that the "free press" is just as culpable in this clown show as the politicians.

Kye said...

The Democrats, who have morphed into full-on communists since every policy they support is from the communist playbook, don't care who they harm they just want the levers of power back in their despotic grasp. They have adopted the "It's better to rule in hell than serve in heaven" philosophy and have decided if destroying our Republic is the only way to rule it then so be it.

They're betting the house (the White House) that by muddying the political waters and casting doubt on Trump right up till election day they can win. They may be right. They seem to be willing to lose everything to win just one more time. That indicates to me that if they do win they have no intention of ever losing again!

JWM said...

One of your best, Mr. Porretto. Clear as rainwater; sharp as glass.


Pascal said...

Given all that you have written about the Death Cults and how much they hold sway in high places, I beg you to reconsider your definition of moral and see where your logic takes you.

We have seen evidence that they have redefined it for themselves and either have a faith that rivals your own or they've inculcated such faith in their soldiers. I've written and spoken before of a moral paradigm shift. It seems very few comprehend all that implies. The shortest way to describe it is Live and let live versus Lead to death and live.

Mind you, I am not saying that envy does not play a role in what is driving them. Given Whom the schemers are most envious of does not mean that excludes others from their sights.

But my point of requesting that you consider they follow a morality unlike your own does not mean they are behaving in a manner totally negative sum. Chaotic implies no rationality at all, and where mis-assessed could be fatal.

IMHO (really since I doubt it carries much weight) the best hope of defeating a rational opposing morality is to bolster you own and spread with all you have in order to deplete their ranks.

Pascal said...

It only just occurred to me that what you wrote they could use to work in their favor and against you. Those who would do so remind me of the kind of linguistic torment Eichmann inflicted upon his less knowledgeable religious captives.

Their moral stance is founded on Malthus. Ours on God. See the implications regarding who is the rational ones?

Those with their faith in the former are actively working to eliminate all of the latter one way or the other. It's logical.

George True said...

In their own minds, the Leftists are highly moral. They not only will not brook any different opinions, just the fact that someone even holds a different opinion is proof in their minds that the holder of that opinion is wrong, and therefore evil. This is classic Leninism at its core. Their moral code informs them that it is absolutely moral and in fact required to destroy the dissenter, in any way possible, including actual murder of that person if they can get away with it.

While we would consider such true believers to be totally immoral or at best amoral, in their minds they are the moral ones, thus, their actions cannot be considered irrational, because it is a closely held code of conduct that informs them and compels them to commit their inhuman acts. This is what we are up against.

Andy Texan said...

Those of the Borg will never fail to flaunt their 'virtue' while heaping scorn on all others. Clearly they feel themselves to be the 'moral' ones.

Lurking Reader said...

I think it is the lust for power and trying to preserve their corrupt lifestyle. Trump is a serious threat to them and they know it.

Also anger. They were so close to completely taking down America and it was taken away from them. Many things, confluence together into this show we see them doing now. Last ditch, hail Mary try to save their power and themselves.