Stag Hunt

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Identification

Stag Hunt is a game theory dynamic many negotiators don't know they are using. Also referred to as the trust dilemma or what some call co-opetition - this describes a conflict between individual actor / low stakes safety and large payoff social cooperation dynamics. It may be easier to individually seek a personal or company goal (the "rabbit") than plan and accumulate resources collectively for a much larger payoff (the "stag"). The dynamics of this are complex and it is used by groups or associations to gain social cooperation, even when the players don't appreciate the risk dominant or payoff of dominant pure strategies (choices).

Example

Political policy often argues that things of potentially great societal risk should be paid by political subdivisions whose cost is unknown as is the greater benefit. This is used to persuade even when the objective impact is elusive. Such as a decision to go to harm a destructive trade partner with a small boycott or invest in solar and wind to fight global warming. The dominant collective strategy choice ( e.g., tough sanctions or higher energy taxes to reduce carbon emissions) may not reduce risk if the political subdivision cannot get critical mass to actually impact the outcome. Voluntary individual action (e.g., reducing consumption of goods and services from offending trade partners / personal efficiency ethos (the "rabbit")) may reduce risk and require less resources with bigger impact more than the isolated involuntary action targeting the larger strategy (e.g., pressuring a democratic republic to negotiate tough sanctions or multilateral climate change response).

Solution

You must do the math and develop a payoff matrix. The advocacy to "do anything" especially in crisis to get the larger strategic option may deplete resources in the long and short terms. (see Crisis). Determine the Nash Equilibrium as there are two pure strategy outcomes. YouTuber William Spaniel has a great free Gamet Theory 101 course and textbook to guide you through how to put together the best option matrix for an informed stag's hunt. In a world with finite resources, every "think globally, act locally" coercive law should do this analysis before the legislature sees the draft legislation.

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