Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When do norms breakdown?

This post by Rajiv Sethi got me thinking:

DC DOT has been repaving Mass Ave near AU for what seems like a long time and it seems to be done - except that it has not repainted the lines on the road. I expected a total breakdown with drivers all over the road but for the most part everyone adheres to the the lanes that were there before the road work.

In this case there was a set of standards that anchored the norms but what would it take to break it? Suppose every other car were to hog the lanes - would this lead to a breakdown of the norm so that it becomes one lane (in each direction instead of the current two)? Or would it only require as few as one out of every 5 cars? Assume that there is no enforcement mechanism. Or would the norm be to squeeze as many cars as possible into a lane so that instead of two lanes, it becomes three?

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