Tom Schelling Is Rolling Over In His Grave, Econospeak
By Barkley Rosser
Thomas Schelling got his Nobel Prize in economics for saving the world from global thermonuclear war in the 20th century, when many thought it was inevitable. Rival nuclear game theorist, John von Neumann, said to bomb the Soviets as soon as possible, like, tomorrow, preferably before noon
Schelling won the debate in real time, being an advisor on “Dr. Strangelove…” bringing about as a result of that the installation of the “red phone,” for immediate and direct communications on such matters between the then USSR and the US. I suspect that phone still exists in some form, bur I do not know
What Tom got his visit to Stockholm for, which I told him in person he would get before he got it, (yeah, really), was his formulation of how to find a socially beneficial game theoretic solution when many of those exist. He proposed finding a socially agreeable solution that all accept that is also socially good. This proposal he put forward and became accepted was no first use of nuclear weapons, period, even though, of course, the US violated that at the end of WW II. But while it did not become formally or officially accepted, this doctrine became accepted in practice, and we had no nuclear wars, and Tom was the most important person behind this, both intellectually, and in terms of policy in the 1960s.
So unfortunately before he died in 2016, he lived long enough to see the beginning of the unwinding of his rule. When Putin conquered and annexed Crimea in 2014, and much of the West put some pretty minor economic sanctions on him for this, one of his media flunkies (apologize I am not going back to dig up this immoral asshole’s post or who is, let him die unknown), declared: “We can turn New York into ashes,” or words to that effect. The moment I saw that media post, not shut down by Putin, I knew that Tom Schelling’s hidden and implicit rule that had prevented the world from being destroyed in a global thermonuclear war, was over.
Needless to say, as he has become more desperate as his poorly functioning military is being defeated by the military of the nation he invaded without a shred of justification, Putin is making himself not only a world historical war criminal, but a total hypocrite. He actually reminded the world that Ukraine gave up what was then the world’s fourth largest stash of nuclear weapons in 1992 He ludicrously complains that somehow now they regret that. No, he claims they are actively trying to get them back, which is another excuse for his invasion.
But, of course, in 1992, when Ukraine gave up its large stash of nuclear weapons, Russia along with US and UK signed the Budapest Memorandum/Accord that involved recognizing both the independence and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Obviously Putin violated this in 2014, with both the US and UK failing to respond. That he now reminds of his violation of this agreement at this point is, well…