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Prisoner’s Dilemmas- I: Gun Control in Arizona

Below are the conditions and calculations for the Prisoner’s Dilemma in the tug-of-war between the Arizona state government and the municipality of Tucson over HB 2111 (2021).

·        Reward for Mutual Cooperation: R= .5

Both the state government and the city of Tucson compromised on the terms or enforcement of the statute. It is valued at .5 because it would not be a complete victory but a split that results in a more moderate policy.

·        Punishment for Defecting: P=0

Since the gun control debate has become zero-sum due to the current political culture, the cost of deepening the partisan divide is minuscule. If anything, sympathetic constituencies and the party leadership will drive elected officials in disagreement or on the fence to side with their party. Plus, there is little to lose in the current hyper-partisan climate. Shoot for the moon, providing you are towing the party line. The penalty for defection is valued at 0.

·        Temptation to Defect: T=1

In the arena of political gamesmanship, a win is a win. A victory in passing legislation or overruling/ circumventing policies that are not congenial to one’s political proclivities is high. Considering the current state of American politics the incentive structure for political actors is to go for a win rather than a halfway measure. The value of one 1 represents a complete political victory. To be formally ironed out; would most likely require a ruling from the high court.

·        Sucker’s Payoff: S=-1

The current tautology of a win is a win has veracity, then the inverse should also be true in political disputes. Because of the current political incentives, you cannot trust that an opposing faction will come to the bargaining table in good faith. -1 represents a political loss. 

Per Jennifer Firkins Nordstrom two conditions must be met for a game to qualify as a Prisoner’s Dilemma.

                1. Temptation to Defect> Reward for Cooperation> Punishment For Defection> Sucker’s Payoff.

  • Simplified as T>R>P>S. A Criterion met by this game: 1>.5>0>-1.

2. (Temptation to Defect +Sucker’s Payoff)/2 < Reward Cooperation.

  • Simplified as (T+S)/2 <R. (1+-1)/2=0 <.5.

Per the above tabulations, it would appear as if the HB 2111 turmoil constitutes a Prisoner’s Dilemma.

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