The Game of Politics : Book Review

The Game of Politics : Book Review

If you have never read a book on politics before then this one, being easy to read and follow, is the one to start with.

“The Game of Politics” – Pursuit of power over people game manual.

Author: Jón Thór Ólafsson, one of the first three Pirates to be elected to a national parliament in Iceland in April 2013.

Jón Thór has a political science degree and was on the PPIS campaign committee that realised the historic electoral victory in the last election. He worked as the parliamentary assistant for Birgitta Jónsdóttir when she was an MP for the Movement political party, and is therefore well qualified to write a book such as this one. What is more impressive is that the book was first published in 2008 – four years before his election.

It starts with a warning from Plato that is very applicable to today’s situation: “The penalty for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being ruled by worse men than yourself.”

The book is aimed at bringing the principles of game theory to the rough world of politics in an educational and practical way. Expansive use of well thought-out tables and matrices help the novices (and more experienced politicians) to make better, more informed decisions. And whether you like it or not, we are all politicians – be it in the family, at work or on the national (or even world) political stage.

It is literally a pocket book and only 57 pages long, but packed with helpful advice. The book is currently out of print and its associated website is also closed but Jón Thor has agreed to let us publish a PDF version on a Pirate Times page.

The book is divided into three main parts:

Part 1: The Game of Politics

This contains a very good primer on politics in general, which deals with factors that motivate people to reach for political goals and how political players work to achieve those goals.

This section contains three subsections:
The Human Qualities – which covers the motivation and the means to reach political goals.
The Political Players – types of players and the various political systems.
The Political Power – defining direct and indirect power.

Part 2: Predicting The Game Results

Being able to see how the game will end given the current set of circumstances is essential to devising good strategy.

This section is divided into two subsections:
Game Results Matrix – how to graphically depict the state of play.
Political Player Profile – how to analyse the methods, motivations and means of the other players friend or foe.

Part 3: Influencing The Game Results

Now we get to learn how to put the theory into practice.

This section is divided into two subsections:
Mobilizing – how to get yourself and others active for a cause.
Strategizing – how use your new knowledge of yourself, the other players and the relative positions to create an effective strategy.

We Pirates want to change the world and the way we have chosen to do it is by changing the system from the inside. That means we have to be aware of the tactics available to us and those that our opponents will use against us. In the real world, politics is Realpolitik (based on power and material factors) and we need to learn to work effectively in that theatre while internally we explore new ways of reaching decisions.

This little book should be the next book on politics you read; perhaps your first but it should not be your last. There is a section with suggested reading.

 The book ends with:
The game is on, it’s your move!

The book's cover

CC BY-SA Jón Þór Ólafsson

Featured image: Newfrontiers  CC BY-NC