Behavioral & Game Theory · Walter

Walt’s Credible Threat

To end the series, Walter needs to find a way to get his money to his son, but he knows that the federal government would confiscate the money if he does it himself. Instead, he seeks help from his former business associations, Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz. He asks them to launder the money through their business so that it appears to be a charitable donation. The Schwartz’s agree, but because he’ll die soon, Walter has no guarantee that they will actually go through with the donation.

Walter tells the Schwartz’s that he’s hired “the best hitmen” that he could find and that if the money is not donated to his son shortly after his son’s 18th birthday then Elliot and Gretchen will be assassinated. In order for such a threat to be credible, Walter hires Pete and Badger to stand outside the house and point laser pointers at the two of them to have them believe they were actually snipers. Walter’s persona leads to his credibility as well.

See more:  asymmetric information, credible threat, game theory, imperfect information, incentives, insurance, opportunity cost, risk averse, strategic behavior, ultimatum game

Foundations · Jesse · Macroeconomics · Trade · Walter

Let’s Make a Deal

Walter tracks down his former student, Jesse, with the intention of collaborating with him in the production of methamphetamine. Walter’s intentions become obvious once he starts revealing that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has apprehended Jesse’s former business partner. Walter goes further and adds, “But you know the business and I know the chemistry. I’m thinking … maybe you and I could partner up.”

While Jesse has performed both tasks in the past, there is little doubt that Walter, because of his chemistry knowledge and perhaps better task-management skills, is more productive at making methamphetamine as well as distributing it. Even though Walter has absolute advantage in cooking and distributing methamphetamine, the logic of comparative advantage tells us that Walter and Jesse should collaborate. More specifically, Walter should cook while Jesse should distribute/sell the methamphetamine.

Incentives, and how individuals respond to incentives, represent another key economics concept. In this clip, Walter’s offer for a partnership deal comes with a catch:

Jesse: “You wanna cook crystal meth? You. You and me.”
Walter: “That’s right. Either that, or I turn you in.”

Walter threatens to inform the DEA about the methamphetamine business if Jesse chooses not to join the partnership. Here, Walter is encouraging some action (joining him) by issuing a threat (turning Jesse in). Their interaction represents an ultimatum game, in which Walter’s threat is an example of a negative incentive.

This description comes from Duncan, Muchiri, and Paraschiv (Forthcoming).

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