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Leaks in the Trump Administration Explained

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-game-theory-explains-the-leaks-in-the-trump-white-house

In a fairly recent article that still shines light on the executive branch of the United States, John Cassidy attempts to explain why our current administration is continually struck with issues of information leaks with game theory. Cassidy contributes the leaks to the dog-eat-dog culture Trump has engineered and sustained in the White House through the factionalized internal staffers. If a staffer believes a rival staff is going to leak damaging information, the first reaction would be to leak something first. Similar to the notable Prisoner’s Dilemma game, it is in both parties best interest to leak, or in other words, confess. Hence, if the leaks are to stop, Trump has to foster an environment of loyalty amongst his staffers by incentivizing mutual denial and changing the rewards/punishments for the game.

In game theory terms, the staffers of the White House are given the pure dominant strategy of leaking (confessing) because any given staffer has a better payoff with confessing regardless of if another staffer leaks or denies. This creates a Nash Equilibrium of leak/leak, which can be controversial in determining whether this is to society’s benefit or loss. Transparency is an immensely valuable trait of any public official or administration, and the leakage at the very least enables the American population to see what is truly happening in the White House and hold people accountable. On the other hand, this hyper-transparency of sorts leaves the United States with privacy and protection risks as information is perhaps circulating too robustly. This presents the United States and our administration as a divided entity with polarizing factions, making us susceptible to a variety of different outside forces. Therefore, although game theory explains why staffers and prisoners can have the dominant strategy of confessing or leaking, perhaps it is in society’s best interest that this remains in order to keep the criminals in jail and our administration transparent.

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