The Limits of Competition

John Warner, Inside Higher Ed, May 25, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I have a story I often tell. Suppose, I say, two people want to travel from Edmonton to Calgary. What's the best way to do this? Should they each get a separate car and race? Should they bid against each other for the one remaining car, with only the winner traveling? No, competition won't get these drivers to Calgary faster nor more efficiently. The rational thing to do is to share a ride. John Warner writes, "Competition works really well when the goal is to determine who is a winner and who is a loser and the winners benefit, receiving their tributes and rewards. When the rewards are outsized, or the punishment severe, truly terrible behaviors can result." He's right.


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