Notes on the Economics of Game Theory
By: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
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Could Western management techniques be successfully implemented in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)? Granted, they have to be adapted, modified and cannot be imported in their entirety. But their crux, their inalienable nucleus can this be transported and transplanted in CEE? Theory provides us with a positive answer. Human agents are the same everywhere and are mostly rational. Practice begs to differ. Basic concepts such as the money value of time or the moral and legal meaning of property are non existent. The legal, political and economic environments are all unpredictable. As a result, economic players will prefer to maximize their utility immediately (steal from the workplace, for instance) than to wait for longer term (potentially, larger) benefits. Warrants (stock options) convertible to the company's shares constitute a strong workplace incentive in the West (because there is an horizon and they increase the employee's welfare in the long term). Where the future is speculation speculation withers. Stock options or a small stake in his firm, will only encourage the employee to blackmail the other shareholders by paralysing the firm, to abuse his new position and will be interpreted as immunity, conferred from above, from the consequences of illegal activities. The very allocation of options or shares will be interpreted as a sign of weakness, dependence and need, to be exploited. Hierarchy is equated with slavery and employees will rather harm their long term interests than follow instructions or be subjected to criticism never mind how constructive. The employees in CEE regard the corporate environment as a conflict zone, a zero sum game (in which the gains by some equal the losses to others). In the West, the employees participate in the increase in the firm's value. The difference between these attitudes is irreconcilable.
Now, let us consider this:
An entrepreneur is a person who is gifted at identifying the unsatisfied needs of a market, at mobilizing and organizing the resources required to satisfy those needs and at defining a long-term strategy of development and marketing. As the enterprise grows, two processes combine to denude the entrepreneur of some of his initial functions. The firm has ever growing needs for capital: financial, human, assets and so on. Additionally, the company begins (or should begin) to interface and interact with older, better established firms. Thus, the company is forced to create its first management team: a general manager with the right doses of respectability, connections and skills, a chief financial officer, a host of consultants and so on. In theory if all our properly motivated financially all these players (entrepreneurs and managers) will seek to maximize the value of the firm. What happens, in reality, is that both work to minimize it, each for its own reasons. The managers seek to maximize their short-term utility by securing enormous pay packages and other forms of company-dilapidating compensation. The entrepreneurs feel that they are "strangled", "shackled", "held back" by bureaucracy and they "rebel". They oust the management, or undermine it, turning it into an ineffective representative relic. They assume real, though informal, control of the firm. They do so by defining a new set of strategic goals for the firm, which call for the institution of an entrepreneurial rather than a bureaucratic type of management. These cycles of initiative-consolidation-new initiative-revolution-consolidation are the dynamos of company growth. Growth leads to maximization of value. However, the players don't know or do not fully believe that they are in the process of maximizing the company's worth. On the contrary, consciously, the managers say: "Let's maximize the benefits that we derive from this company, as long as we are still here." The entrepreneurs-owners say: "We cannot tolerate this stifling bureaucracy any longer. We prefer to have a smaller company but all ours." The growth cycles forces the entrepreneurs to dilute their holdings (in order to raise the capital necessary to finance their initiatives). This dilution (the fracturing of the ownership structure) is what brings the last cycle to its end. The holdings of the entrepreneurs are too small to materialize a coup against the management. The management then prevails and the entrepreneurs are neutralized and move on to establish another start-up. The only thing that they leave behind them is their names and their heirs.
We can use Game Theory methods to analyse both these situations. Wherever we have economic players bargaining for the allocation of scarce resources in order to attain their utility functions, to secure the outcomes and consequences (the value, the preference, that the player attaches to his outcomes) which are right for them we can use Game Theory (GT).
A short recap of the basic tenets of the theory might be in order.
GT deals with interactions between agents, whether conscious and intelligent or Dennettic. A Dennettic Agent (DA) is an agent that acts so as to influence the future allocation of resources, but does not need to be either conscious or deliberative to do so. A Game is the set of acts committed by 1 to n rational DA and one a-rational (not irrational but devoid of rationality) DA (nature, a random mechanism). At least 1 DA in a Game must control the res