As Schelling notes, such situations are dangerous, because they create “a risk of establishing an immovable position that goes beyond the ability of the other to concede,” thus provoking “the likelihood of stalemate or breakdown.”
Many malpractice cases do go to trial, even though it would be in the interest in both plaintiffs and defendants to settle. In a bargaining situation, powerlessness can be powerful, but it can also produce worst-case scenarios.
In previous negotiations, Boehner’s apparent powerlessness over House Republicans seems to have given him a strategic advantage. But in the coming weeks, the nation’s fiscal future may well require him to find a way to assert a measure of control over his flock.