At its strategic core, the partial government shutdown — soon to enter a record-breaking 22nd day — is a breakdown of bargaining: two sides, no solution in sight. President Trump and congressional Democrats are engaged in the latest battle of a game that economists have studied for decades. If politicians can’t end the stalemate, surely game theorists can. OK, they can’t. But they can help identify what’s gone wrong, and you and I may be part of the problem.
Let’s start with the basics about what bargaining really is: the allocation of a scarce resource and the setting of a price.