Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From Teens to Kings

Brian Micklethwait comments on how different power structures cause different behaviors the same peoplewhich, if you haven't noticed is one of my favorite little subjects:

I refer to the teenager who is (a) monstrously badly behaved towards his or her own parents, but who is, simultaneously, (b) much better behaved towards other people. The difference in behaviour is explained by the fact that the parents are defenceless against their own teenagers.

Strangers have a larger arsenal against your children than you do, and it appears that teenagers realize that, perhaps after getting smacked around or shunned by people at large while you, meanwhile cower in fear both him and the child protection agency. Funny how those incentives line up with the behavior.

King Leopold II was, simultaneously, a satisfactory King of Belgium, and a spectacularly disgusting ruler of the Belgian Congo, which was his personal possession and in which he murdered and plundered at will.

Similar incentives exist for kings, too.

What incentives are inherent in the power structures you deal with?

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