While my recent post on the tax deal has sparked a fair amount of debate, which I hope to respond to soon, I wouldn’t normally bother with Megan McArdle’s lengthy and snarky attack on it. But when she calls what she takes to be my scorched-earth position on negotiating strategy (not actually my position, but more on that in a later post) a “big favorite of academics, who I infer have watched a lot of Mel Gibson movies”—since academics would never get the idea that a reputation for craziness provides negotiating advantages from, say, a Nobel Prize-winning economist—my professional pride is involved. So bring it on. Let’s see what a Village journalist considers hard-nosed political wisdom.
Sabl’s question seems to me like an incredibly unrealistic one. It assumes that by really slick application of game theory, progressives can somehow move the dial, so that what negotiations theorists call the ZOPA–the Zone of Possible Agreement–shifts dramatically, making possible much more progressive outcomes than have been realized recently.But a lot of what professional negotiators do is simply recognize what the limits of the ZOPA are. They don’t waste energy trying to shift it to encompass impossible outcomes. Immediately after Democrats have lost a midterm election by historic margins (something I believe I may have mentioned) is not a propitious time to be trying to shift the ZOPA leftward.
Update: See Megan McArdle’s comments, and mine, below. Her comments are substantive in content and handsome in tone, and I hope my response is too. Elbows having been thrown, I think we’re ready to shake hands and play on.