Schelling's Points

by Don Boudreaux on May 3, 2005

in The Economy

Aaron Steelman, one of the best interviewers-of-economists going, has this splendid interview with Thomas Schelling in the Richmond Fed’s Region Focus.

I especially like Schelling account of how the idea of the ‘Schelling Point’ first came to him:

The question first occurred to me while I was driving across country with two college friends. We were going from San Diego to New Hampshire and back, and camping along the way. We stopped in San Antonio and one of the other two guys got out and bought some peanut butter and crackers. While he was gone, a police officer made me move on, and because of the one-way streets, it took me about 10 minutes to get back to where I dropped him off, and he wasn’t there. I kept circling around and eventually we found each other. But we realized that this could happen to us in any city, and we should come up with a plan about how to meet if we got separated.

I also like Schelling’s generous and confident idea about new ideas:

More generally, I think that when a new idea develops, it is important that the enthusiasts are given free rein to explore and perhaps even exaggerate that idea. Once it catches on and becomes respectable, then it’s time to become more critical.

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