(Not that I ever would, given the title of the site… 🙂 )
I love this…Leymah Gbowee of Liberia seems to have figured out the power of incentives better than most corporate executives ever will- she, among other things, organized a sex strike in Liberia in which Liberian women refuse to sleep with their partners until the civil war there ends. (Ended? My knowledge of current events seems to have tunnel vision.) Her rationale was that the men of the country were perpetrating the violence there (in her words) either by commission or omission. That’s basically a more eloquent version of “if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” So she gave them another good reason to be a part of the solution.
Best quote: “We needed a way to get through to [our men], and we thought that was one of the best ways.” Smart lady- she seems to get that you can argue and debate until you’re blue in the face, but it often doesn’t have nearly as much of an impact as figuring out how to hit somebody where it hurts. She is also enough of a realist to recognize that it doesn’t so much matter *why* people stop fighting, as long as they actually do stop fighting. (Incentive designers take note- it’s helpful to decide whether you care about the reason for good behavior or just the good behavior itself, and the decision is not always clear cut. If you don’t believe me, think about the idea of paying kids to get good grades.)
I’m kind of in love with this woman…and also am very impressed at Stephen Colbert’s ability to be funny/playfully mocking while remaining completely respectful.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Despite my girl crush, however, I am not going to let Ms. Gbowee off the hook when it comes to unintended consequences. What sorts of things should she have been wary of when formulating this plan?
Coordination failures are certainly a potential problem- why not just let everyone else abstain? I mean, if you are the only woman having sex with her man it’s not like the plan is going to go to pieces…but if everyone thinks this way then nothing is accomplished. Luckily, it appears that the women’s desire for solidarity won out over the incentive to free ride.
I would also like to know what the market for prostitution looked like during this time. From the prostitute’s perspective, it’s a much tougher choice to abstain from sex- the wives and girlfriends were (theoretically, or at least one would hope) subjecting themselves to a cost by witholding, but not nearly as much of a cost as giving up a source of income. Given that, I am curious as to whether prostitutes went on strike as well. If they didn’t, the striking women are taking a bit of a risky path since they are giving their men an incentive to seek out substitutes for, well, them. If I was one of these women, I would want to provide for the prostitutes under the condition that they also go on strike, since lowering the availability of substitutes is a helpful factor in this case. Hmmm…now that I think about it…ok, I don’t even want to ponder what other substitutes would need to be accounted for. (Let’s just say I’ve had sheep on the brain this week and leave it at that. Ew. Or, as my friend pointed out, ewe.)