Ariel Rubinstein wrote the Afterword for the 2007 reprinting of the book that launched Game Theory as a field, von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Here is a representative excerpt:

Others (including myself) think that the object of game theory is primarily to study the considerations used in decision making in interactive situations.  It identifies patterns of reasoning and investigates their implications on decision making in strategic situations.  Accordingto this opinion, game theory does not have normative implications and its empirical significance is very limited.  Game theory is viewed as a cousin of logic.  Logic does not allow us to screen out true statements from false ones and does not help us distinguish right from wrong.  Game theory does not tell us which action is preferable or predict what other people will do.  If game theory is nevertheless useful or practical, it is only indirectly so.   In any case, the burden of proof is on those who use game theory to make policy recommendations, not on those who doubt the practical value of game theory in the first place.

And, by the way, I sometimes wonder why people are so obsessed in looking for “usefulness” in economics generally and game theory in particular.  Should academic research be judged by its usefulness?

Tam o’Shanter Toss:  Russ Roberts

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