[FoRK] Challenge for Zee and Stephen

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Jun 30 15:08:58 PDT 2008

Jeff Bone wrote:
> Sigh...  let me try this another way, Stephen.  Much simpler and 
> higher-level.
> Do you think that we should institutionalize games within our system 
> that are at-best zero-sum games and, over an iterated series, 
> increasingly-likely to be negative sum?
People should win only when they are wronged and in a reasonable 
proportion to the damage.  The former usually happens, the later does in 
some areas and not in others.
> Think about this game-theoretically:  who has merit vs. who "wins" and 
> payouts in each case.
My impression is that generally who wins is probably correct, except for 
outgunned lawyers losing and rich clients settling somewhat too much.  
The real problem is what is won.  If you hear about some plaintiff 
winning millions, do you automatically assume that there is no sane 
reason for it?  Or can it make sense to police the "big guys" or reward 
a bad wrong?  I'm sure that there are many cases that are unfair, but 
I'm also sure that a number of players try to get away with too much and 
need to be slapped.
> The negative-sum possibilities are the problem.
It is negative-sum primarily because of the overhead, attorneys and time.
What other negative-sum possibilities are you referring to.
> Find a solution that fixes this that doesn't amount to a bunch of 
> band-aids and exception handling.  You can't w/o normalizing the 
> payout matrix.  And w/o this, the present system is one that no 
> rational player would voluntarily take the defendant's side of --- 
> i.e., it is obviously biased.
Really?  OK, you be the little guy, and I'll be Microsoft.  You can file 
a new lawsuit every day of the year and I still won't even notice.  My 
team of the best, highest paid attorneys on the planet will crush you 
like a bug.  And if we can't we'll buy out people in high places.  You 
do remember that A) DOJ was heavy in an anti-trust case with Microsoft 8 
years ago and B) as soon as this administration came to office it was 
dropped with all possible speed, plus what you may not know is that C) 
the new head of DOJ, or his CTO, immediately put out an edict that the 
entire department was to switch from Novell / Word Perfect / (some kind 
of Novell / X.400 email system) to all Microsoft, nothing but Microsoft 
products.  Which little guy was it that won there?

Or how about the LECs?  How many DSL companies remain after predatory 
pricing and installation "errors" and other tactics?  (I myself 
experienced this, with lines that worked suddenly becoming inoperative 
after several years of service and no way to get Verizon to put it 
back.)  Was there some way that I could have successfully sued that I 

There's a number of millions that have been wronged with no recourse.  
That's a lot of little guys.  If one of them succeeded in winning 
$10million, that's not necessarily egregious if you divide it out.  And 
it is good if it prevents bad acting in the future.  A kind of 
pay-it-forward for those who weren't actual defendants.  Outside of 
certain areas however, nobody wins that kind of award without a lot of 
skin in the game.

I'm totally pro-business, however I have little patience when companies 
try to get away with things that are unfair or wrong, even if they claim 
to be in a gray area, but especially if it is illegal.

> jb

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