Reason, incentives and coercion
Question: At the center of the labor dispute between NFL owners and professional football players is George Cohen, a federal mediator known for his work in helping Major League Soccer come to a resolution over its own labor battles. Mediators have no power or authority to compel either side to do anything, but they still have the capability to influence the outcome in nuanced ways. What must Cohen do to bring the more uncompromising members of both sides together to make a deal?
The tools open to any negotiator boil down to RIC: reason, incentives and coercion.
This I learned the hard way--very hard!--as director of President Reagan's arms control agency negotiating nuclear weapons cuts with the Soviets in the 1980s.
Over all those many years, and thousands (more?) of hours at the negotiating table, we came to realize the limited tools at hand.
Coercion, raw power, wasn't in our toolbox. Even reformer Mikhail Gorbachev had his proverbial "finger on the button." He could do us as much harm to us as we could do to him. So force was out, much as it is to George Cohen (admittedly, in a very different setting!).
Now go to reason. We could argue--as we did during our all-night session (8:00 pm to 6:20 am) at the Reyjavik Summit in October 1986--that we each had more than we could ever use, or need. In our case, it was nuclear weaponry. In Cohen's case, it is money available to players and team owners.
Two problems with this approach, though. First, few negotiating positions yield to reason. The Soviets weren't big on logic. Had they been, they wouldn't have been Soviets (living under such an irrational system). Second, "needs" and "use" are infinitely elastic. No NFL player would think he does not "need" more money, or could "use" no more. Ditto for Soviet war-planner with nukes.
So we're left with incentives. These can change over time, and be potent though abstract. Gorbachev envisioned a different future than Brezhnev or Andropov.
Plus, incentives go beyond specifics. The fans' faith in players, respect for the game, loyalty, admiration--all far more abstract than money splits, and yet somehow more powerful.
Here, George Cohen has a powerful tool--namely respectability, deserving of admiration--just as Ronald Reagan had when proclaiming that the new USSR, willing to sign the accord to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons (intermediate-range), ended its era as "the evil empire."
Posted by: Henry_Hancock | March 11, 2011 2:50 AM
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Posted by: DannyCohen | March 8, 2011 5:10 PM
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