Economics,  Game Theory,  Torture

Pithy post on tortue

Tdaxp has an interesting post on the government use of torture here, to wit

My reply back to him mainly concerned, the subtile, which is The inside story of how the interrogators of Task Force 145 cracked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s inner circle—without resorting to torture—and hunted down al-Qaeda’s man in Iraq. The title’s odd in that it is both boring and inflammatory.

The boredom first. I can imagine an article subtitled The inside story of how programmers at Microsoft Corporation released SQL Server 2008 on time — and without using hash tables.

I’ve always found the specific opposition to torture strange. We’re willing to jail people for the rest of their lives, hold them without trial, and bomb various countries which involves inherent civilian death and maiming. Drawing a line at torture seems odd to say the least. I suppose to some people it is a categorical difference in government action, and not an incremental difference in human suffering.

Now that I think about it, it does make for a good Schelling Point. It is objectionable to differing degree to both sides of the argument, as well as obvious to both. It is also seen as a categorical tactic (though not strategy) by both. Hmmm….


  • Dan tdaxp

    jail people for the rest of their lives

    An important point. I think this is the worse thing that a state is capable of doing. And yet so many of those who oppose torture, and the death penalty, act gleeful at the possibility of caging human beings like dogs out of revenge.

    (I didn’t know about Shelling Points before this post. Thanks for the education! 🙂 )

  • Steve

    I’ve always thought that the phrase “taking a life” describes life in prison more than executions do. That would be “ending a life” I suppose.

    And yes, Schelling points” are quite useful David Friedman is brilliant.