Now, I don't know why we have a debt ceiling law, and I don't know what having one is supposed to accomplish. I can't say whether it's good or bad, should remain or be removed from the books. But it doesn't take a genius, nor an econ major, nor a person with a kindergarten education to understand that if the US defaults on its debt for the first time in history, it will have repercussions around the world, will ruin our standing, and (this part takes some level of understanding, I guess) immediately add 100 billion to our annual deficits. (That could happen without default, if credit ratings go down as people see our fundamental inability to govern ourselves.)
DESPITE all the bluster about an impending default on the government’s debt, most observers in Washington and on Wall Street still believe the two parties will reach a crisis-averting agreement.
That’s because the practice of American politics assumes that all players will negotiate according to predictable patterns — that they will realize they can get more from compromise than by demanding everything and winning nothing.
Under that assumption, President Obama is right to keep pressing for a compromise, because eventually the Republicans will fall in line. But as two wildly different fields — game theory and the study of elephant mating patterns — show, there are limits to the usual assumptions: sometimes players simply refuse to play the game, and when that happens, the best advice for their opponents is to do the same....
Unfortunately, even the author can't come up with a sensible solution. His mind, it seems (and not unlike mine), is blown. Tossing his hands in the air, he concludes:
In the 1983 movie “WarGames,” an errant military supercomputer has a final moment of lucidity in which it notes, “The only winning move is not to play.” The president is best advised to do the same: declare that the other side has foregone all pretense at rational legitimacy, and simply proceed to govern as best he can for the good of the country.
Sort of says it all, really. "As best he can." How? Facing these guys in Congress, and, unlike them, recognizing there's a Constitution and there are certain assumptions about governance in a democracy, what's a president to do?