Schelling, von Neumann, and the Event that Didn't Occur

69 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2008 Last revised: 24 Oct 2013

See all articles by Alexander J. Field

Alexander J. Field

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

Date Written: October 23, 2013

Abstract

Thomas Schelling was recognized by the Nobel Prize committee as a pioneer in the application of game theory and rational choice analysis to problems of politics and international relations. But although he makes frequent references in his writings to this approach, his main explorations and insights depend upon and require acknowledgment of its limitations. One of his principal concerns was how a country could engage in successful deterrence. If the behavioral assumptions that commonly underpin game theory are taken seriously and applied consistently, however, nuclear adversaries are almost certain to engage in devastating conflict, as John von Neumann forcefully asserted. The history of the last half century falsified von Neumann’s prediction, and the “event that didn’t occur” formed the subject of Schelling’s Nobel lecture.

Keywords: Game Theory, Deterrence, Nuclear Strategy, Schelling, von Neumann

JEL Classification: C72, A12, A14

Suggested Citation

Field, Alexander J., Schelling, von Neumann, and the Event that Didn't Occur (October 23, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1095946 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1095946

Alexander J. Field (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States
408 554 4348 (Phone)
408 554 2331 (Fax)

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