I was annoyed last night, visiting the Borders bookstore in Westwood, to find that Borders has decided not to carry Thomas Schelling’s new collection of essays, Strategies of Commitment (Good news: Dutton’s does carry it; you can expect a review shortly.)
But I was even more annoyed, as the clerk at Borders offered to special-order the Schelling book, to see on the “Non-fiction Bestsellers” rack a huge stack of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, which is nothing but ripoff of one of Schelling’s ideas. To add insult to injury, Gladwell doesn’t even have Schelling’s name in his index. If you want to sell your book, I guess it’s better to have a good publicist than a Nobel Prize.
If you don’t have a Dutton’s nearby, you can order Strategies of Commitment from Amazon:
The global-warming essay, which I’ve read, is worth the price all by itself.
Update A reader wants to know how Gladwell in 2002 could have stolen from Schelling in 2006. Fair question. It wasn’t the new book Gladwell ripped off; it was Micromotives and Macrobehavior, published in 1978 based on papers Schelling was writing in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The basic tipping idea appears in “On the Ecology of Micromotives,” published in the Fall 1971 issue of The Public Interest.
That essay had personal significance for me. Reading it as a senior in college, I was thunderstruck. When I said to my professor, “I have to learn how to do that!” he said “Well, Schelling teaches at the Kennedy School.” I said “The where?” and sent off an application. I didn’t even know there was a discipline called “policy analysis,” but once I heard of it I knew what I wanted to study. That’s what saved me from law school.