Four worthwhile reads to point towards:
Over at rhizome there’s useful thoughts on the cons and pros of leadership, especially in community groups.
Chris Rose has a new “Campaign Strategy” newsletter out, and he’s looking at the hows and whys of the big NGOs being behind the curve on protecting forests in the UK, with useful thoughts and comments on clicktivism.
Meanwhile, Antonio Dias at “Horizons of Significance” writes on “futility” and its costs.
Finally Robert Boyd, Herbert Gintis and Samuel Bowles had a piece in Science last April called “Coordinated Punishment of Defectors Sustains Cooperation and Can Proliferate When Rare”
Because mutually beneficial cooperation may unravel unless most members of a group contribute, people often gang up on free-riders, punishing them when this is cost-effective in sustaining cooperation. In contrast, current models of the evolution of cooperation assume that punishment is uncoordinated and unconditional. These models have difficulty explaining the evolutionary emergence of punishment because rare unconditional punishers bear substantial costs and hence are eliminated. Moreover, in human behavioral experiments in which punishment is uncoordinated, the sum of costs to punishers and their targets often exceeds the benefits of the increased cooperation that results from the punishment of free-riders. As a result, cooperation sustained by punishment may actually reduce the average payoffs of group members in comparison with groups in which punishment of free-riders is not an option. Here, we present a model of coordinated punishment that is calibrated for ancestral human conditions and captures a further aspect of reality missing from both models and experiments: The total cost of punishing a free-rider declines as the number of punishers increases. We show that punishment can proliferate when rare, and when it does, it enhances group-average payoffs.
You can get a pdf from Samuel Bowles’ page at the Santa Fe institute.
Sorry that it’s all live white males – I obviously need to broaden my google readers scope.