The nuclear taboo

Tom Schelling delivers a chilling Nobel Prize lecture.

Tom Schelling’s Nobel Prize lecture is up as a Real Media video; a text version is promised for later. This is not at all the cheerful, playful Schelling of the micromotives and climate-change work. Here Schelling is back to arms control, and he’s about as cheerful and playful as a wolfpack: grimly satisfied that, surprisingly, we’ve gone sixty years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki without seeing nukes used in anger again, and grimly determined, though only cautiously optimistic, about keeping that record going.

The take-home point: The nuclear taboo might never have been created, but now that it exists we should all treasure it. We all need to hope that the Iranian mullahs are as wise as LBJ and not as batsh*t crazy as John Foster Dulles, and the United States has to learn what it means to be deterred.

Since the lecture, brimming though it is with wisdom and insight, is likely to leave you bummed out, I recommend visiting the Inter Press Service website or the website of the Centre for Research on Globalization for a good laugh.

(Previous thoughts on Schelling from Mike, Steve, and me.)

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: