Maximizing common good or national interest

Published September 24, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid

Almost daily, we (public officials, corporate officers and ordinary citizens) employ a strategy described as a game. It assumes that people are rational in their actions in the intent to maximize gains and self-interest. Sometimes, it becomes a “zero-sum” game, when one’s gain becomes another person’s loss.
At the national level, we have seen or are seeing several decisions being made — rice tariffication, and recently, sugar importation and then, banning it, or are faced with dilemmas with regard to salt and banning of POGOs.

In each of these decisions, the assumption is that there are two sets of players, either individuals or a collective, vying for gain in strategies and decisions made. Each strategy/decision will have its economic and social costs which are weighed according to agreed upon criteria.

In the early 70’s, mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern constructed the theory, with about 12 Nobel laureates awarded for their contributions in enriching the theory.

To figure out the optimal solutions for the best possible choices, one analyzes costs, and benefits to each participant who compete with each other. Government and business decision makers are expected to predict the strategic planning or thought processes of competitors and collaborators.

Today, it is being applied in business, psychology, biology, economics, political science, computers and communication. And they have been employed in bidding at auctions, collective bargaining, or negotiation between two positions to new products, and stock market decisions.

Game theory strategists are likewise expected to have training in these academic disciplines. It is therefore multi-disciplinary and each of these sciences, essential in ensuring a more rational decision making that benefits the common good, not merely individual or special group interest.

Unfortunately, however, most decisions at national level are being made primarily by economists and legal experts. The other disciplines, notably psychology and communication and information theory, are not deemed important. But psychologists as we know are needed for a more intelligent understanding of human behavior, and communication and information scientists, for crafting culture-fit messages, and ensuring effective interaction and feedback.

At the national level, we will need to engage with all publics beyond traditional elected decision-makers to include members of civil society and people’s organizations. Among the critical decision areas are K-12, a “hybrid” and alternative educational system, reforms in public health and public safety, judicial system, trade, culture, etc.

Because of globalization and with greater interaction among peoples and nations we expect decision-making to become more complex. Decisions made at the national level affect the global environment. Thus, decisions made on critical issues such as the future of nuclear energy, mining industry, relationships with the ASEAN, US and China, the West Philippine Sea, resources such as Malampaya, to name only a few, require a greater understanding of the values and interests of outside partners and institutions.
The important thing is that while working towards a more rational decision-making process, we must always put the interest of the common good as well as national interest above everything else.

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