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February 11, 2009

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Noam

If a windfall allows me, when combined with my initial wealth, to make an investment that ‎subsequently ‎turns sour, would it be appropriate to say that the windfall had “backfired”? I think not, ‎and the case of ‎the Israeli elections appears to be analogous.‎

Plurality winner or not, Kadima could have either conceded the elections (leading to a more centrist ‎Netanyahu government) or claimed victory for itself, giving up the benefits associated with such a government for the opportunity to participate in a gamble in which a Livni government is the outcome ‎of success and a right-wing Netanyahu government is the outcome of failure. The plurality victory ‎increased the probability of success, presumably enough to make the lottery option attractive. If ‎Kadima’s leaders now gamble and lose, they may in hindsight regret the electoral victory which made ‎the lottery option attractive. I would have similarly regretted the windfall ‎that made my investment ‎possible. In both cases, however, it would be more appropriate to “blame” the bad decision to gamble ‎or the bad luck that followed than to claim that the win(dfall) had “backfired”.‎

Kadima’s plurality victory would actually backfire if Likud’s preference for being the largest coalition ‎‎party outweighed its preference for a centrist coalition. If that were the case, Kadima would be ‎‎offered a place in a Likud-led coalition only if it received fewer votes than Likud. But this is rather ‎‎trivial: it is hardly surprising that “winning” may “backfire” when “losing” comes with its own special ‎prize.‎

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