The Confidence Game


 Here’s a sad truth for you all and they even teach it in Game Theory courses. All relationships are decided by power and apathy. They are all confidence games.

Two people get into an argument. One has reasoned arguments and is clearly right. Who wins? The one who has more power and cares the least about the issue being decided, and don’t fool yourself into believing otherwise.

Back when I was a floor trader for a big firm, I screwed a little guy out of a trade. I was usually a pretty decent guy, but I wasn’t in a very good mood that day. The smaller trader started yelling at me and was totally correct. It didn’t matter. I was in a bad mood, I let him have it, and he ended up apologizing to me. “Gee Brad, I’m really sorry I got upset after you screwed me over.” “That’s right, just don’t let it happen again.”

You’ve all read about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Long story short the Russians blinked. The Russians lost. Why? Because they were stupid enough to actually care more about the planet getting blown to smithereens than America was. Hardly, something to tell your kids to make them feel better before bedtime is it?

Haggling? Convince the seller or buyer that you couldn’t care less whether the deal gets done and you will not only win, you will win decisively.

In 1986, I really wanted a 1965 Gibson ES-335 guitar. Someone found me one and I drove 50 miles to take a look at it (a really bad start). I brought along a 12 string Rickenbacker and a cheap Jazz bass for trade. The Rickenbacker should have been a fair trade alone, but that guitar store guy not only got the bass but he drilled me for every penny of the $57 I had in my wallet. “Yeah, I think the right price is everything you can possible afford to pay!”

Ten years later I saw a Fender Telecaster I thought was sort of nice. I wasn’t looking for a guitar. I didn’t really feel like purchasing a guitar. I got it for $400, which was like 40% of the listed price. The roles were reversed.

The first guitar I ever purchased was an Aria Pro II. I was 17. I walked into a store and told the salesman I wanted a Rickenbacker, which he of course wasn’t a dealer in. He got me to buy the Aria. Here’s how. He mocked me and made me feel small. “Everyone wants a Rickenbacker because John Lennon played one, but they’re crap. Did you ever see John Lennon playing one at the end of his career?”

Sadly, this power thing works in all aspects of life especially love. Check out some personals and see how many girls claim to be looking for relationships without any games, as if that is possible. Remember George Costanza and his fight for the upper hand? There was never a truer Seinfeld episode.

And you know what? I find it all sad. It’s sad that competition triumphs over cooperation because it is a more effective scheme and it’s sad that the people who care the least always get their way. Most of the time the people who care the most not only lose they get crushed.

I long for a world where you can declare your passions up front and put them right on the table. This isn’t it.

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