Last fall, we posted the abstract to our work-in-progress titled “Breaking Bad and the Natural Law Tradition.” Originally, we were going to write about the conflict between meth kingpin Walter White (alias Heisenberg) and DEA agent Hank Schrader from a natural law perspective, but since then, we re-discovered a bargaining game known as “So Long Sucker” and have thus become captivated by two central themes that permeate every episode of Breaking Bad: the themes of bargaining and betrayal. We have since written up a 7000-word paper exploring these themes in greater detail. (You can read the first draft of our paper on SSRN.) In the meantime, here is our new abstract:
This short paper explores a number of commonalities between the bargaining game “So Long Sucker” and the critically acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad. In brief, “So Long Sucker” has been variously described as “a dog-eat-dog world” (Anatol Rapoport), “vicious” (William Poundstone), “anti-chess” (D. Graham Burnett), and “fiendish” (Peter Tannenbaum). That these dire terms equally describe the meth underworld as depicted in Breaking Bad is no coincidence, for the game “So Long Sucker” and the meth trade in Breaking Bad both share a number of commonalities. In both worlds agreements are unenforceable; double crosses, recurrent; victory, elusive. Moreover, these commonalities raise deeper questions about the nature of morality in a “society of ruffians” (see, e.g., David Hume), questions we explore in the conclusion of this paper.