Time is political
2 min read

Time is political

When global forces, like a health crisis or a market failure, disrupt previous order of things, it seems that events develop fast and there is no time is limited.

Depending on the decision-making system, *time to decide* varies. But the real challenge for political decision-makers is not to come up with a fast solution. The challenge for them is to understand own preferences in this changed environment. It is a complex and consuming process because preferences are not fixed and pre-established. A lot of theoretical frameworks argue the opposite, assuming that preferences of decision-makers are already given and fixed, and when two decision-makers interact in the game, we see nothing but interactions of their preferences. In other words, knowing their preferences, we already know what their actions will be.

However, preferences are never fixed because the context in which they are developing are never fixed as well. Decision-makers are always involved in the process of re-evaluating their preferences as they receive new information and as their environment changes. Based on new information, they re-interpret and if needs to be, *deviate* from their original preferences.

The only preference that is fixed is survival, but this applies to everything, which makes it analytically nothing. *Adaptiveness and agility are key for survival*.

And that is why managing time is a political decision-making process.  

Human cognition is not perfect and it takes time to analyze new situation and understand what is your role (if any) and preference in it. Some systems of decision-making may be specifically designed to provide more time to decision-makers to analyze before acting.

Duality is a at the core of such systems. On the one hand, it is an analysis-based decision-making: collecting evidence and forecasting consequences. You have to go through procedures, consultations, approvals and other formalities before deciding. On the other hand, it is a time manipulation, delaying decision to understand your benefits and costs, or to free-ride on others’ actions, or fast-forwarding time, to get (all) benefits faster (than others) or prevent something from happening.

For example, even if there may have been enough time to prepare gradually, a decision-maker can announce emergency to fast-forward  the obtainment a special emergency powers,  that would extend the scope of the decision-maker’s usual powers, not necessarily aimed specifically at the cause of the emergency. In other words, time allows you to utilize your (lack of ) opportunity strategically, based on your own cost-benefit calculations.

However,  time is a zero-sum game, too. Time spent on doing something or nothing, cannot be spent on anything else. Time spent on not dealing with health crisis cannot be returned. Time spent analyzing your political options is the same as the time others spent spreading the virus. Its zero-sum nature is at the core of its political dimension.