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Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)

Mutually assured destruction is a funny idea.  If two sides are armed, they will be both be inclined to not use those arms.  This political strategy is widely accepted by many countries.  Regardless of the fact that there has not been another world war since WWII and many countries do not face an immediate threat from a hostile country, most countries with a sizable economy and infrastructure have a blooming military system.

It seems counter intuitive to dedicate so many resources to developing firearms and nuclear weapons when the money, materials, and time could be spent on improving the daily lives of citizens in other useful ways.  These weapons, after all, do not seem like they will be used any time soon.  However, it is almost a political necessity for all countries to have some sense of protection.  Let’s think about it in terms of game theory.

We’ll define the parameters like this: we have two countries A and B who can both either have weapons or do not have weapons.  If both countries do not have weapons, they each get 10 payoff, which represents the growth in their city’s well-being due to the resources saved from not having weapons.  However, if one country does have weapons but the other does not, then the one with weapons gets 20 payoff due to being able to bully and attack the country without weapons to give them their resources, while the one without weapons gets 0 payoff due to having their resources taken away.  If both countries have weapons, they each only get 5 payoff due to the fact that they have to dedicate resources to the military industry, but they both will not fire at the other.

We can represent the above like so:

Country B

Weapons

No Weapons

Country A

Weapons

(5, 5)

(20, 0)

No Weapons

(0, 20)

(10, 10)

The best choice would be for both countries to not have weapons and receive (10, 10) payoff.  However, this is not Nash equilibrium.  If both do not have weapons, one country will be better off if it develops weapons.  At that point, the other country will develop weapons as well, and they will both end up at a worse payoff (5, 5): the Nash equilibrium.

It’s a little sad that, based on game theory, countries need to have weapons.  However, when countries are at Nash equilibrium, there is the fact that neither country will be inclined to go to war and kill the other, and that is always a good thing.

Sources:

https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Mutual_assured_destruction.html
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/will-mutual-assured-destruction-continue-to-deter-nuclear-war/

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