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.

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: