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All of the essays in this new collection by Thomas Schelling convey his unique perspective on individuals and society. This perspective has several characteristics: it is strategic in that it assumes that an important part of people's behavior is motivated by the thought of influencing other people's expectations; it views the mind as being separable into two or more parts (rational/irrational; present-minded/future-minded); it is motivated by policy concerns--smoking and other addictions, global warming, segregation, nuclear war; and while it accepts many of the basic assumptions of economics--that people are forward-looking, rational decision makers, that resources are scarce, and that incentives are important--it is open to modifying them when appropriate, and open to the findings and insights of other social science disciplines.
Schelling--a 2005 Nobel Prize winner-- has been one of the four or five most important social scientists of the past fifty years, and this collection shows why.
Thomas Schelling, 2005 Nobel laureate in economics, is interested in the strategies—rational, irrational, mean, kind—that people use to constrain their behavior. In these essays, he looks at addiction, temptation and resolve, as well as the use of threats, promises and bluffing. What's fascinating is that he applies his analysis of these strategies not only to individual behavior but also to critical issues like race relations, abortion and the behavior of nations—for example, international agreements to reduce greenhouse gases. Schelling is that rarest of creatures, an economist who writes clearly, takes on practical questions and thinks them through alongside his reader. He is delightful to read.
— Susan Salter Reynolds
In recent decades a few ambitious and imaginative economists have tried to break the surly bonds of statistics and produce ideas all of us can understand and maybe use. Among these noble warriors against the evils of obscurantism, Thomas C. Schelling has established himself as the champion...Schelling's new book, Strategies of Commitment and Other Essays, takes us on a readable tour through the concerns of a major academic career.
— Robert Fulford
Whether by accident or design, this collection of essays is well timed to celebrate Thomas Schelling's winning the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics. With one minor exception all the essays have been published previously. On the scale of Schelling's long career, most are relatively recent productions. All the characteristic features of his work—the breadth of his interests, the originality and creativity of his theorizing, the intellectual rigor of his policy analysis and the freshness and clarity of his writing—are on display. The title essay is an elegant reprise of the work for which Schelling is best known among his fellow economists: the study of strategy commitment. Several essays explore the possibilities of commitment as a mechanism of self-control. Schelling treats the individual as a collection of selves, interacting strategically with one another. He writes with empathy and imagination about the strategies by which one self tries to forestall choices that another self will want to make, and the countervailing strategies by which the latter tries to evade the constraints imposed by the former.
— Robert Sugden
1. Strategies of Commitment
Climate and Society
2. What Makes Greenhouse Sense?
3. The Economic Diplomacy of Geoengineering
4. Intergenerational and International Discounting
Commitment as Self-Command
5. Self-Command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice
6. Coping Rationally with Lapses from Rationality
7. Against Backsliding
8. Addictive Drugs: The Cigarette Experience
Society and Life
9. Life, Liberty, or the Pursuit of Happiness
10. Should Numbers Determine Whom to Save?
Economics and Social Policy
11. What Do Economists Know?
12. Why Does Economics Only Help with Easy Problems?
13. Prices as Regulatory Instruments
Weapons and Warfare
14. Meteors, Mischief, and War
15. Research by Accident
16. Vietnam: Reflections and Lessons
17. Social Mechanisms and Social Dynamics
18. Dynamic Models of Segregation
Decisions of the Highest Order
19. The Legacy of Hiroshima