Expect Brinkmanship in the Debt Ceiling Negotiations?

By — on / Conflict Resolution

Negotiations over raising the debt ceiling limit for the United States remain contentious, leading some to speculate that a deal will not be reached until the 11th hour, if at all. Professor Robert Mnookin, chair of the Program on Negotiation’s Executive Committee, noted in a recent ABC News article that the negotiations resemble a classic game of “chicken,” in which two cars drive toward each other at top speed, until one side swerves to avoid the collision. While it is useful in generating political capital, this kind of brinkmanship can lead to disaster if taken too far. As Mnookin observes, “Sometimes in a game of chicken, neither side blinks.” In the case of the debt ceiling negotiations, however, the sobering consequences of a failure to reach agreement may be a strong enough catalyst to motivate the parties to compromise in advance of the deadline.

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