A couple of years ago I wrote an article for a popular journal on game theory. The standard content: John Nash and the Beautiful Mind, strategic analysis, auctions, the value of information and the winner’s curse. A social worker, who works with local action groups, read the article, and realized that it may be interesting and useful for his community to model the interaction between local action groups, and municipalities and large firms, using game theory. I found this idea worthwhile pursuing, and after some time, two years, to be precise, we ended up analyzing the construction of the new central bus station at Tel Aviv, the second largest city in Israel, and the struggle of the local neighborhood to receive fair compensation for the damages caused by this project.
The modeling is routine and not difficult. One player is the municipality; the other player(s) is the locals. The municipality can be fair or unfair; the locals can fight together, separately or do nothing. Determine payoffs, find equilibria. Lo and behold, in equilibrium the municipality if unfair, it plays divide-and-conquer, it plays a war of attrition.
The mathematical analysis is just a tool to obtain insights: what do we learn from this interaction? This struggle made me think of the tyranny of the municipalities and government. In the back of our minds we all know of this tyranny, we read of it in the news and we see it around us. This interaction is nevetheless a nice example where a municipality mistreats its people: instead of providing fair compensation, it dragged the people for years in court, and did its best to kill their fight.
Unions where established to fight the tyranny of employers. But what can one do to fight the tyranny of municipalities against the weaker sections of the populations? A popular union won’t do. It is fun to strike and to remain at home for others, but it is less fun to demonstrate 100 kilometers away from home for a cause you may not even agree to.
But then, what can be done? Can one establish a non-for-profit organization that helps action groups, backed by first-rate lawyers and experts in public relations, and supported by thousands of people who value justice and fairness and are willing to support struggles against the tyranny of the rich, the strong, and the various institutions of state? Who can be the driving force behind such an organization? Who will finance it? Who ensures us that it, too, will not become part of the rich and strong? Other ideas? Other solutions that exist someplace?