Game Theory… con't.

Now of course, it must be acknowledged that whenever acts of social disorder result in harm to others, there is a “loss” – whether monetary, psychological, or emotional; this loss is experienced by victims, by the state, and by the community. And when thinking about the “loss”, it must be remembered that a real and significant aspect of losses arising from criminal actions are the costs that arise in responding to those actions.

The fundamental issue however, is not in acknowledging that there are losses that arise from criminal actions; rather it is in considering how those suffering the “loss”, be it the victim, the community, or the state, respond to that loss.

That fundamental issue is whether that response is one that increases the overall “loss”, or one that mitigates the loss as much as possible in the circumstances.

Should our society's response to criminal acts rest on policies that endeavour to give to a zero-sum game outcome, or on policies that endeavour to give a non-zero-sum game outcome? For every situation, the mathematics of game theory can be applied to provide an indication of which course of action is most likely to result in the losses being mitigated as much as possible. But it takes graduate level mathematicians to devise the algorithms that would be required to do this - so where is the value in considering game theory?

Simply put, while the mathematics will provide a very sophisticated analysis, with a “number” that one can refer to at the end of the process, one doesn't have to know what the actual “number” will be in any given instance. All one has to know is that one approach will consistently provide one kind of outcome, and another approach will consistently provide another kind of outcome.

We don't have to utilize esoteric mathematics to “know” that an outcome that results in zero + n is preferable to an outcome that results in zero -n. As the John Howard Society of Alberta has been saying for over 2 decades, and as the continually growing body of scholarly literature continues to demonstrate, a retributive criminal justice system will, in actual practice invariably result in a zero –n outcome. While a criminal justice system based on principals of restorative justice will consistently deliver a zero +n outcome – an outcome where all concerned will come away from the process feeling some measure of having gained something from it.


TAKE NOTICE THAT at the 2008 Annual General Meeting of the Society, a Motion will be presented to the membership present at the Meeting, that The John Howard Society of Alberta Board Policy II.B. [Executive Limitations – Financial Planning] be amended as follows:

Policy II.B., which presently reads

With respect to budgeting, the ED shall not deviate significantly from the Board's stated Ends policies, or jeopardize the fiscal integrity of JHSA.

Shall be amended to read

With respect to budgeting, the ED shall not deviate materially from the Board's stated Ends policies, or jeopardize the fiscal integrity of JHSA.

Rationale:  Policy II.B. sets the limits of Executive actions concerning the financial planning of the Society, and is directed at acts the Executive Director shall not take without prior Board approval. The proposed amendment to this policy replaces the term “significantly”, which is somewhat vague and subjective, with the term “materially”, which is specifically defined in Generally Accepted Accounting Practices [GAAP].

The Board recommends that the membership approve this proposed amendment to the Board Policy.