In classic discussions of foreign policy analysis, the most basic understanding of how states or political entities make decisions is called the "rational actor model." For those who are unfamiliar, the rational actor model presupposes that a state or political entity - if they are rational - has goals, understands costs / consequences and wants to balance these factors in order to maximize either goal achievement or profitable consequences.
And, in this theme, there are also "irrational actors", usually failed nation-states, non-state entities or individuals who bear no care for consequences in their seeking of goals.
The GOP has seemingly slipped from being a rational actor to an irrational one. The defense for this statement should be obvious to anyone from either party:
- The leadership of the GOP is no longer in control of its members. Therefore, rational goal setting and consequence avoidance is no longer being effected on its populace.
- The members of the party have no clear goals towards which to consider cost / benefit.
- When presented with clearly bad consequences, many of the party are unsure, unaware or uninformed of the pain of these consequences, leading them to believe that no cost would be worth avoiding the consequence.
- There is now a precedent of consequences being entered into by the GOP without consideration of the harm or pain of those consequences and no effort to move out of them, not for clear goal reasons, but because control has been lost (Sequester, SNAP, the Farm Bill, and the shutdown.)
This leads to an inescapable conclusion that the GOP has become at best "not a rational actor" and at worst a classically irrational actor.
The problem with an irrational actor in foreign policy or domestic politics is that rational actors who deal with an irrational actor fall into the trap of believing that the irrational actor or party will act ... rationally.
The debt ceiling is approaching. The GOP has become an irrational actor. There is no assurance that we won't go over the debt ceiling. In fact, if you were a betting man or woman, based on precedence, we're likely to go over the debt ceiling not because there is a rational choice by the GOP to do so, but because no one has a clear goal or sense of the consequences that will be invoked ... just like the sequester, the Farm Bill and the shutdown.
The question is less about whether we'll fall through the debt ceiling and more likely to become one of historic proportions: how will the voting public treat a party that has dissolved into a failed, irrational political entity in 2014? And how much are we about to lose in terms of personal savings and international power to conduct this experiment?