Have you ever wondered why debates about politics, constitutional law, and philosophy can go on and on without end? More generally, why do people like to argue over such pointless matters? Even yours truly recently fell into this trap on Twitter, where Jonathan G. Harris (@jgharris7) and I debated the question, what is the optimal level of regulation? (The entire thread is available here.)
As it happens, our friend and colleague Bryan Caplan explains here why certain types of arguments resemble a Prisoner’s Dilemma:
If your opponent keeps arguing, you want to keep arguing so it doesn’t look like you’ve run out of arguments.
If your opponent stops arguing, you want to keep arguing to emphasize that your opponent has run out of arguments.
As a result, both sides have an incentive to argue interminably. Which, as you may have noticed, they usually do.
In other words, there are times when making an argument is like the “defection” strategy in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, while maintaining silence is tantamount to cooperation! Do you agree with Professor Caplan’s analysis?