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"Should you panic buy fuel? A true prisoner's dilemma" blog discussion
in Martin's blogs & appearances & MoneySavingExpert in the news
14 replies 3.3K views
Former_MSE_Helen Former MSE
This is the discussion to link on the back of Martin's blog. Please read the blog first, as this discussion follows it.
Please click 'post reply' to discuss below.
Read Martin's "Should you panic buy fuel? A true prisoner's dilemma" Blog.
Please click 'post reply' to discuss below.
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Most people prefer the latter with the 'I'm alright Jack' approach.
(worst case scenario, you won't get your hands on something I can't have)
Responsible garages should put up a sign outside saying "To prevent panic buying, we will only sell you fuel if your gauge is in the red", and then station a member of staff at the entrance to ask for a quick peek at each person's dashboard to make sure.
Anyone who needs fuel will thus be able to get it, and those who don't won't be cluttering the place up and draining the tanks (this is why the sign needs to be visible from outside the forecourt).
Sure, there will be special cases, people with an unusual reason why they need to top off a half-full tank, and the gauge-checker can be free to use their common sense. If they let a few people with clever fake excuses in, that doesn't really matter after all.
Hoping the herd mentality will have died down a bit by now, as my low-fuel light came on as I arrived at work this morning.
Fortunately I filled up on Tuesday, but will need to do so again on Monday, so I hope the panic dies down - if nothing else I can't abide queueing - and more to the point it's pretty dangerous, and somewhat inconsiderate to block the road queueing to get on a forecourt.
Hopefully they don't impose a £10 limit as that wouldn't even do one return commute (it's still cheaper than train/bus combo though!!).
Regarding Leanne Pearson's tweet, there must be a good argument for emergency services to have their own supplies at their depots, rather than relying on commercial supply??
A minimum spend (e.g. £40-£50) with a ban on petrol cans may be more effective. That would exclude a significant number of vehicles from forecourts.
A little gem I noticed on the twitter feed of Edmund King (AA President):
"75 yr lady fills 20 empty 1 gallon paint tins with plastic lids & tray of jam jars in boot with petrol in Macclesfield. AA man stopped her"
P.S: Someone mentioned that one of the ways Thatcher's government supposedly broke the striking coal miners was by keeping increased stockpiles of coal (outside the mines). I have no idea whether this is accurate and I'm not a historian but it was thought provoking...
As I came out I saw a car pull in, the passenger got out, went into use the cash machine (which charges for withdrawals), while the driver left the engine running (window open, crappy old car, so he can't have had the air con on, and it wasn't that hot anyway). Double stupid.
I have been saying this for days now, it's nice to know somebody agrees with me.
But garages won't do this because they are happy with panic buying. As much as they moan about it, they are profiting from the extra sales and the extra jerry cans and bottles of water etc. they are selling.
In this case fuel has become a finite resource temporarily (at the price at which it is sold) because of the threatened strike.
Avoiding climate change is another more serious example of the Tragedy of Commons. If individually people are able to act in a way that leads to climate change but makes life easier for them (or makes them a profit) they will do that, because the bad effects of their actions are spread across all. Collectively as many others follow the same logic, climate changes to the detriment of all.
The solutions to the Tragedy of the Commons are articulated in the wikipedia article as
So here the solutions are either for the purchase of fuel to be restricted (for example to prioritise emergency services as happened in the previous strike and limit sales to the general public) or for people to co-operate by not buying petrol un-necessarily (even though individually that decision might not make sense).
Clearly for the Government to tell people to fill up petrol cans or over-fill their tanks was completely the wrong action to solve the collective action problem.
As someone who cycles further than they drive each year, I am waiting until it all dies down before filling up. If there ends up being a strike then that may not be the best action (looking at it individually) but it is clearly the right thing to do looking at it collectively.
One of the most influential programmes I ever watched was the Horizon problem 'Nice Guys Finish First' which is about this sort of prisoner's dilemma. It is a very interesting watch and is here on youtube and the prisoner's dilemma experiment/game at 10 minutes 37 seconds (and the resulting computer programme tournament to try and play the game and it's eventual winning programme's methodology) is particularly fascinating to watch.
Let's assume everyone posts either to answer a question or to ask a question about a new savings account. Asking a question is useful individually for the poster as it means they (hopefully) will get an answer. Answering a question or giving information about the account involves time and effort, so is not beneficial to the individual only to other forumites.
However if everyone followed the 'selfish' approach everyone would ask questions about the account and nobody would answer questions or provide information on the account so the thread would be useless.
Therefore a co-operative stategy where a number of forumites post useful information is a good stategy even though individually it might be more beneficial to only ask questions.
Clearly posting is more complex than this but is there an element of prisoner's dilemma going on?
So please, just stop this ridiculous madness!