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Op-Ed

Unwarranted taxation and the prisoner’s dilemma

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By EMN Updated: Nov 04, 2013 6:08 pm
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N. Janbemo Humtsoe

 

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]risoner’s dilemma, a part of the fascinating game theory, refers to a situation whereby the pay-off from an action depends upon the decision made by the other parties. The dominant strategy, therefore, is to determine how the other player is going to act or react. This requires knowledge, or accurate prediction, of the other player’s goals as well as the options that are available to them.
The theory goes something like this. Two suspects in a major crime were held in separate prison cells. There is enough evidence to convict each of them for a minor offense, but not enough evidence to convict either of them unless one of them confesses against the other. If both of them remain silent, each will be convicted of a minor offense and spend one year in prison. If one of them confesses, and plead guilty, he will be freed and used as a witness against the other, who will spend five years in prison. If both of them confess, each will spend three years in prison.Apparently, the best option for both of them would be to trust each other and remain silent. But in many cases it is found that both would confess against the other, as the incentive to go scot free is more attractive than any other options. Eventually, by confessing against the other, both end up serving more years in prison than they would have if they had cooperated and remained silent.
This theory extended to economics would be like this. Two countries are engaged in fishing activity in international waters. The ultimate goal for each country would be to employ as much fishing vessel as possible in order to catch maximum fish, hence profit. But excess fishing vessels in the waters would cause congestion, thereby, drastically reducing their average catch. If somehow, they could come into terms and limit their fishing vessels, both countries could have optimum catch. But again, if one country cheats and deploys more vessels, that country could double the catch.
Hence, both countries could profit if they cooperate. However, the expectation that the other party may deploy more fishing vessels would compel the other to engage more vessels as well. The final outcome would be a shrinking fish stock, which would further encourage aggressive fishing, not less. But what if we expand the theory into three player model where the decision made by the third player affects the first two players? Let’s suppose that the fishes (third player) were humans and that the fishes come out with a strategy to evade the fishing nets? In such a scenario, both countries could go empty handed. And the outcome is reversed—the multiplication of the fish stocks and the impoverishment of the fishermen. However, either of the outcomes, that is, shrinking fish stocks or the impoverished fishermen are not desirable.
A case in hand is similar to this. Too many governments and powerful authorities have been levying too many taxes (some legitimate, some unwarranted) for long. And each of them wants to gain control of the market for numerous reasons. The Darwin theory of natural selection which posits that an inherently antagonistic relationship between unrelated individuals would lead to the elimination of the weaker beings has been proven right as businesses suffer, economy decays and growth remains stagnant. But the worst case scenario would be when the sharks start to feed on the little fish that cleared it of parasites.
Suppression of dissent occurs when an individual or group which is more powerful than the other, tries to directly or indirectly censor, persecute or otherwise oppress the other party, rather than engaging and constructively responding to the other party’s argument or viewpoint. And when the society or an institution is governed by such suppressive policy, dissent often leads to hostile takeovers and division. Such things are nothing new to the Nagas as all Naga national governments today, that are on a rat race for dominance and ascendancy, are offshoots of the erstwhile NNC. The real danger, however, is the plausible split between the people and the institution to which they had established to pursue their common interests.
The theories of “social contract” argues that individuals, in exchange for surrendering some of their rights, would agree to establish a political community through a social contract that protect the lives, liberty and property of those who lived within it and in which they all gain security. Locke, however, felt it important to closely examine the public institution that has been so created, and be clear about what functions were legitimate and what aren’t. In other words, what abstract principles should guide the operation of a government, regarding its aims and limits of its authority? For when such things are not properly defined and enforced, an institution so established for common interests could become the common nemesis.
To that end, some social contract theorist asserts that citizens can withdraw their obligations to obey or change the leadership through election or other means, including when necessary, violence, when the government or institution fails to secure their natural rights, as in Locke, or satisfy the best interest of the society, as in Rousseau. However, this idea was considered incendiary as it forfeits the purpose for which the institution was originally established.
What then can the people do when the dominant group is unwilling to yield to the voices and aspirations of the commoners or negotiate a change in the status quo? The dominant strategy would be to increase the relative strength of the low power group so as to compel the other to negotiate or yield or to accept a compromise. This relative power could be increased by either enhancing one’s own power or devising a strategy to weaken the other’s power. However, this strategy cannot be embraced in the case at hand as there are outside players who could gain or might be orchestrating such an outcome in a subtle manner.
Martin Luther King Junior observed that there are three ways of responding to oppression. Oppression is the state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority and therefore, does not only refer to an external entity but could be internal as well as domestic, or a multiple of them. The first way of responding to oppression, according to Luther King, is acquiescence. That is, the oppressed resigns themselves to their doom. They tacitly adjust themselves to oppressor and become conditioned to it. This is what majority of our Naga society has chosen. Keep mum; let others speak up; why risk oneself for some petty issue and so on. But we can’t blame them, for many have been so tired and worn down by the yoke of oppression that they had given up. But Luther says that, “to accept injustice is to say to the oppressor that his actions are morally right.”
The second option that the oppressed people sometimes deal with oppression is to resort to physical violence and corresponding hatred. We have also experimented this. We have shed blood with external forces, and have punished even our own brothers in arms for their excesses, killed them, torched their buildings, their cars and properties. However, the results were only temporary, as it is said that violence never brings permanent peace. According to Luther, violence only creates new and more complicated ones. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
The third option that is available to the oppressed people in their quest for freedom is the way of non-violence resistance. According to Luther, the principal of non violence resistance seeks to reconcile the truth of the two opposites- acquiescence and violence, while avoiding the extremes and immorality of both. It avoids the non resistance of the former and the resistance of the latter. And the important message here is that, non violence is not aimed against the oppressor but against oppression. It is synonymous with the slogan “hate the sin but not the sinners.” And both the oppressed and the oppressor must understand this.
Our youths, the future of our Nation, must also strive to remove the animosity that we have against the oppressors, whoever they may be. Our fight is for justice, fairness, equality and also for opportunity and survival. And violence or careless words are not what we need but self-discipline, perseverance and uprightness.
The Nagas have given their mandate to form a political organization known as Naga National Council (NNC) to pursue and secure the political aspirations and rights of the Nagas. And the same mandate extends to all other Naga national groups that have branched out from the NNC. The decision of the Nagas, then, to pay tax to the Naga government is for the realization of that goal alone.
However, over the years, excluding some few dedicated leaders, many undesirable elements under the guise of “national cause” have robbed and plundered our fellow Nagas, messed the economy and ruined our future. They have forgotten the real cause and sufferings of the Nagas and their selfish goals and vindictive nature has driven them further away from God and the Naga people.
The message is therefore, crystal clear. Mend your ways, and we shall follow. Keep your inequities and we shall reconsider our options.
The writer can be contacted at- janbemoloths@gmail.com

This is a reader’s contribution to the Eastern Mirror support for the campaign towards a brighter Nagaland. Tomorrow (Sunday), a contributory article by Kekhrie Yhome “De-eroticising Nationalism desire” will appear.

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By EMN Updated: Nov 04, 2013 6:08:33 pm