When You're Paying Per Bone Fragment, Expect More Fragments
We tell quite a few stories about unintended consequences in SuperFreakonomics, including what happens when governments add or increase a trash-collection tax — like this one and this one.
But I don’t think any stories we tell are quite as interesting as the following one, sent in by a reader named Jack Crichton in British Columbia:
I’ve been reading Bill Bryson‘s A Short History of Everything and came across an interesting paragraph (on page 439) about unintended consequences resulting from an incentive-based program. In the 1940’s, the paleontologist von Koenigswald was searching for early human remains on Java and decided to enlist the help of the locals in his search by offering them “ten cents for every piece of hominid bone they could come up with.” Unfortunately for von Koenigswald (and for his findings), he discovered too late that the locals “had been enthusiastically smashing large pieces into small ones to maximize their income.”