Monday, 19 October 2015

Eric Pickles & The Prisoners' Dilemma

Thanks to this piece by Ed Smith, the former cricketer turned writer and TMS commentator, I have been introduced to the concept of 'The Prisoner' Dilemma'.

"Imagine how good cricket could be if we cured the easy fixes", writes Ed Smith, contemplating the factors that led to England's run chase in recent first Test against Pakistan being cut short.

Those factors all arise from a seemingly rational pursuit of self-interest, but, as Albert Tucker, the Princeton mathematician and game theorist, showed in his "Prisoners' Dilemma" theory, when two agents pursue narrow self-interest it can work against the long-term benefit of both. In cricket's case this is the long term future of the Test Match as a spectacle.

"That's interesting, Sam" I can hear you thinking, "but where are you going with this?"

Well, might it be said that planning in the Eric Pickles-inspired, post-RSS world has suffered from its own version of the Prisoner's Dilemma? For individual teams playing on pitches that may suit their own team or captains slowing down games to avoid defeat, read individual LPAs preparing local plans to suit their own housing needs without any regard to the ability of a neighbouring LPA to meet theirs.

As Ed Smith notes, "the only way to avoid this is to take the decisions out of the hands of the individual agents",which is all well and good, in theory, for a sport with a governing body, but what or who in the current planning system is persuading LPAs to cooperate 'for the good of the game'? The answer to that is probably the local plan inspector, who only enters the fray late in the day.

As in cricket administration, there must be a collective agreement within the planning system that serves the whole game, which is why it is heartening for planners to see some (not all) Combined Authorities seek strategic planning powers as part of their devolution submissions. At least some local authority leaders see that greater-than-local interests are also the best protector of their own individual local interests as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment