Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Perverse Incentives

“It’s O.K. to spend $85 on a hotel, $15 for parking and another $15 for breakfast, but if you spend $90 for a hotel where parking and breakfast are included, you’re over budget,” he said. “And it’s O.K. to drive 400 miles in your own car and to get reimbursed at 34 cents per mile, for a total of $136. But get a comfortable rental car and pay $75 and you’re in trouble.”

Like governments, large corporations become bureaucratic. A small organization finds it easier than a large one to hire talented people with strong values and inculcate a shared culture and shared expectations about appropriate expenses. The challenge is much greater as a company grows, and the temptation exists to replace judgment and community norms with rules.

Writes Webflyer, commenting on a story in The New York Times, via Travelnotes.

Webflyer pretty much nails it, so I’d just like to add:

Not that the TSA would ever fall victim to software doing this sort of thing, or create software that would encourage such behavior.