by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Have you ever thought about why the game of chess has been around for millennia? Why it has roots in numerous cultures? Why it transcends language barriers? Economics professor Svetozar Pejovich has. He shared his thoughts in remarks made in both Serbian and English before the ninth annual online chess match between the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Belgrade. Here is the English version:
From its appearance in the sixth century, the game of chess has withstood the test of time. It means that the game has qualities that go beyond the thrills of winning and the pains of losing. It has remained popular for over 1000 years because it bears a resemblance to the basic human craving for individual liberty under a rule of law. Why?
In some societies, the ruling elite restricts the freedom of individuals to make their choices. In some other societies individuals make choices free from outside interferences. In the game of chess, the outcome is fully dependent on the player’s freedom from outside interferences. Why is the freedom to choose important, in chess as well in life? Just ask yourself how your behaviors would change if you were not allowed to independently decide on your moves in chess. Discouraged? Disinterested? Lazy? All of which would lead to a lower competence level. Thus the freedom of choice creates incentives for us to excel in what we do. Hence chess is consistent with human preference for individual liberty.
Major economic functions of the rule of law are to protect the freedom of choice, and to minimize the discretionary power of the state to interfere with the right of individuals to pursue their preferences. Frequent changes in the rules increase the risk associated with activities that have future consequences. How discouraging would frequent changes in the rules of chess be on the quality of the game? How would frequent changes in the rules affect your ability to prepare for the game? And how would frequent changes in the rules influence your desire to play chess? Thus, chess requires stable rules
In summary, the game of chess, the game we all love, has survived 1500 years because it is not just a game; it is a lesson in life because it bears a resemblance to the basic human craving for individual liberty under a rule of law.