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Bailout Bill Collapses--biggest Prisoners' Dilemma Problem Ever

It looks like the bailout bill just failed in the House, an alarming prospect as the Dow nosedives. My sense of what happened is this: There were a healthy majority of congressmen who wanted the bill to pass, but many of them (most of them?) also wanted to be on record voting against it, for obvious political reasons. So you got a classic prisoners' dilemma situation: Everyone's best-case scenario was to vote against the bill and have everyone else vote for it. Unfortunately, as anyone who's taken introductory micro knows, that usually leads to the worst-case scenario, where everyone defects and the whole venture collapses.

The good news is that there should be some universe of people out there willing to switch their votes--the members who want this thing to pass but were being clever earlier. Here's hoping Nancy Pelosi et al can round them up if there's another push on this.

--Noam Scheiber