The prisoner’s dilemma is essentially a situation in which the incentives for the individual are in conflict with those of the collective. Sullivan demonstrates that the “opt-out” public option presents precisely such a dilemma:
The argument against new entitlements requires a macro-level perspective. You have to argue that although a measure may help an individual get something she wouldn’t otherwise have … its consequences will come back to haunt us all … This is always a tough sell because it requires voters to put abstract concerns over practical short-term gains.
This is why, as Sullivan goes on to point out, ”conservatism always has a tough time in welfare state democracies.” And it is, of course, why demagogues so often manage to get themselves elected. They encourage the voters to be irresponsible.
In the case of the “opt-out” public option, Republicans and conservatives in the various states would be put in the position of asking voters to act in the best interests of the collective when their individual incentives push them (hard) in the opposite direction.
This is where GENUINE leadership comes in. A real leader is able to convince individual voters to resist the solipsistic urge to vote themselves more and more stuff. Don’t look for such leadership from the demagogues who run the White House and Congress.