WHEN considering what the social sciences might tell us about Covid’s disastrous two years of decision-making infamy, we should not forget Thomas Schelling and his notion of ‘Schelling Points’ (aka focal points).
This is another potential explanation of the planned conspiracy that doesn’t rely on the caricatured image of a cabal of evil backroom boys and girls secretly plotting a takeover of the world, yet recognises that conspiracies among politicians and other connected players are real, frequent and often evil.
Who was Thomas Schelling?
Schelling was a renowned American economist and strategist whose principal area of research and practice was deterrence, nuclear war and defence policy more broadly.
His magnum opus was The Strategy of Conflict (1960), and his genre was game theory. He was one of the biggest names in the 1950s and 1960s debates over limited nuclear war, deterrence and the shared American and Soviet strategies of ‘mutually assured destruction’, affectionately then known as MAD. Think Dr Strangelove.
He has been described as the master theorist of nuclear war strategy. Some have said that Schelling’s involvement with American decision-makers during the period of heightened Cold War tensions might have saved the world from nuclear Armageddon. (Schelling lived until 2016 and many of his interviews and appearances are readily available on internet platforms).
Schelling has described game theory as simply the study of strategic thinking, of anticipating what a partner or an adversary might do in a given set of circumstances in order to shape your own actions. Another way of describing Schelling Points is described by Wikipedia as ‘a solution that people tend to choose by default in the absence of communication’.
Schelling’s own famous example is the hypothetical need for two strangers without any communication choosing where to meet in New York City and at what time the next day. The preferred answer in the experiment Schelling attempted with his students was 12 noon at Grand Central Station.
Wikipedia tells us: Schelling states that ‘(p)eople can often concert their intentions or expectations with others if each knows that the other is trying to do the same’ in a co-operative situation (at page 57), so their action would converge on a focal point which has some kind of prominence compared with the environment. However, the conspicuousness of the focal point depends on time, place and people themselves. It may not be a definite solution.
Tim Hyde, of the American Economic Association, notes: ‘Schelling argued that people’s apparent ability to co-ordinate without communicating was key to understanding how real-life strategic games are solved.’
Schelling Points therefore allow for collaboration among connected or unconnected actors without the need of communication.
You can simply anticipate what other actors will do and calculate your own actions with this in mind. Like having your Twitter followers re-tweet your messages. Or leaking information to a trusted journalist.
In other words, you can create a sequence of events without the need to communicate anything to others who are also participating in the action. The uses of co-ordination games and Schelling Points in defence strategy are clear, as they are in game theory more generally.
How has this worked with Covid? Is Schelling relevant today? It turns out that the world of Covid decision-making is riddled with Schelling Points. People who were on the same team could achieve their various objectives without needing to communicate …
1. Anthony Fauci might well have anticipated what might happen if he funded research into the creation of SARS-like viruses in Wuhan.
2. China might well have anticipated what weak, craven Western leaders might do if it bullied the World Health Organisation into declaring lockdowns to be the preferred response to Covid.
3. Wuhan operatives might well have anticipated the impact of the virus on multi-generational Northern Italian families all living cheek-by-jowl in a country with poor health facilities and lots of connections with Chinese travellers returning from Wuhan after the Chinese New Year celebrations in early 2020.
4. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College might well have anticipated the impact on wavering decision-makers at No 10 Downing Street of his flawed, out-by-orders-of-magnitude model projections of Covid deaths.
5. Western leaders and their pals in the media might have anticipated what would happen if ‘the vaccine’ was declared to be the ONLY way back to freedom from lockdowns.
6. These same Western leaders might well have reasoned that putting on enough ‘performative safetyism’, as Paul du Quenoy has termed Covid theatre, would persuade the troops to all fall into line behind all the rules.
7. What would low-information citizens (the rationally ignorant, as Anthony Downs called voters who deliberately do not bother to inform themselves about political issues) do when told that many of their rights would be taken away if they didn’t get vaccinated? That one is pretty easy to anticipate.
8. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison might well have anticipated that creating a National Cabinet might spread the political risk associated with pandemic response and so save the political hides of many across eight jurisdictions. Particularly his own.
9. Bill Gates might have understood very clearly what his funding of the CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) round table on pandemics in October 2019, just weeks before the actual outbreak of a real ‘pandemic’ (as defined by Gates’ friends at WHO), might achieve in terms of setting out strategies for dealing with a ‘hypothetical’ global viral outbreak and embedding these strategies in government policy across the planet.
10. Any one of us might well have anticipated what the corporate media and various, much-quoted academics would say about vaccines, given the source of much of their incomes (the advertising and research revenue from Big Pharma).
11. The Chinese leadership might well have anticipated the impact of a pandemic on the take-up of postal voting in a must-win American presidential election, with all of its opportunities for election fraud.
12. The authors of The Great Reset might have anticipated the extent to which a global virus scare might help nudge the world towards a global, technocratic governance model that no one voted for, with all of its bells and whistles – digital identity, central bank-driven digital currencies, bio-security systems previously unheard of, and the surveillance and tracking of citizens for whatever purposes the overclass might decide on. The road to serfdom, you might say.
The list just goes on and on.
Covid Schelling Points might also be thought of as the sound of dominoes falling, as the world went crazy for two years over a relatively minor virus which leaves more than 99 per cent of its sufferers rudely healthy.