A nice guy finishes first

Thomas C. Schelling has won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Mike O’Hare, who has the most Schelling-like mind I’ve ever encountered, said most of what needed to be said about the award of the Economics Nobel to our teacher, colleague, and friend Tom Schelling.

It was natural for the committee to name Schelling for his work in game theory, and in particular for his focus on asymmetric and non-zero-sum games. But he might equally well have shared the prize with Kahnemann for his work on imperfectly rational decision-making, and in particular for thinking about controlling one’s own habitual or impulsive behavior as a strategic interaction between different aspects of the self.

One striking aspect of the award is that it was given for work written almost entirely in prose rather than in mathematics, and beautiful prose at that. I’d put Schelling’s best writing — and he doesn’t have many bad days at the keyboard — in the Orwell class for unobtrusively graceful exposition. If you haven’t read Choice and Consequence, you have a literary treat in store for you.

Update Tyler Cowen has a good summary of Schelling’s work, with links., including one to a fine essay by Klein, Cowen, and Kuran. Note that Schelling is such a genius at conflict resolution that he has Cowen and Atrios agreeing on something.

Update Some thoughts on Schelling’s Nobel Prize lecture, with a link to the video.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com