As Diamond phrased the question above, it seemed to be about recklessness. How, in the face of oncoming disaster, could people just keep on doing what was sure to bring the disaster about? This isn’t really a puzzle at an individual level, as he pointed out: something (overgrazing or overfishing, to choose two obvious examples) might be good for each individual but bad for the group. The puzzle is how governmental institutions might fail to respond appropriately.
One possible answer was provided by Thomas Schelling in an essay on organizational command and control. Reckless behavior by an organization need not be the product of reckless individuals. It might instead stem from individual cowardice, with each person afraid to be the one to tell his boss the likely result of some organizational policy.