Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee,
Until seven times: but, Until seventy times
Matthew 18:22 (King James Version)

In the Bible, it says they asked Jesus,
how many times you should forgive,
and he said 70 times 7.

Well, I want you all to know
that I'm keeping a chart.
Hilary Clinton

Forgiveness is puzzling.

The strategic puzzle is presented in Charles Schulz's cartoon series which depicts Charlie Brown being continually compelled to forget Lucy's past & to try to kick that football.

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Must Charlie Brown always forgive and forget?

Or can he keep a chart, instead, and end getting tricked?

(I am told that the Rabbinic tradition that Matthew 18:22 was responding to limited forgiveness to 3 strikes. Our own secular convention appears to allow only 1 strike, and then shame on me.)

Forgiveness is not the only institution which requires us to ignore the past: voters who must overlook past politicians campaign "promises", the doctrine of confession, the fathers who have to unconditionally love the prodigal daugther or son, and the hopefuls who remarry after divorce.

And -as we enter the New Year- the institution of making resolutions to bind our future selves.

After every January 1st, I will no longer eat too much, drink too much, exercise too little, and so on.

We know by past experience that these commitments, if made in or around January 1st, will not last much past Februrary.

Should we just walk away from all these institutions, priding our self on our skill as rational calculators?

Unfortnuately, the world is not that simple or forgiving.

You and I, "Y" face a choice between safe and risk, "S" and "R". The world, full of Lucy Van Pelts, "W", can respond by being naughty or nice, "N" or "G".

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There are three outcomes in this game tree, O1, O2, and O3.

Y prefers O1 the most and O2 the least. Y prefers to take risk, if the World is nice.

W prefers O2 the most and O3 the least. W prefers to have Y take a risk, just so the World can be naughty.

We both prefer O1 to O3, which is part of the puzzle.

The standard insight from game theory is: Unless the Lucy Van Pelts of the world can credibly commit to playing nice, we will end up in a world O3 which we both dislike compared to O1.

And you and I cannot bring about this world by our own actions - acting alone without a credible commitment will ensure our worst outcome.

But, being in the franchise business, we know that sometimes the credible commitments aren't worth the paper that they are written on!

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Joe and Mike!



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