Pop Culture

Game theory in film, music, and fiction.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Suggested by Irwin Lipnowski

The leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Butch and Sundance, are fond of robbing trains with a particular fancy for a rail line run by Mr. E. H. Harriman. They learn that Harriman, Having had enough, hired a group to pursue the robbers. "He resents the way you've been picking on him so he's outfitted a special train and hired special employees," they are told by a friend who also suggests that the gesture is quite flattering.

After eluding the gang, Butch recognizes how the outcome is Pareto dominated, though using a different vocabulary:

"A set-up like that costs more than we ever took...That crazy Harriman. That's bad business. How long do you think I'd stay in operation if every time I pulled a job, it cost me money? If he'd just pay me what he's spending to make me stop robbin' him, I'd stop robbin' him."

[Screaming out the door at E. H. Harriman.] "Probably inherited every penny you got!"

"Those inherited guys - what the hell do they know?"

Mike Shor, 2005