The Character of Harms

Operational Challenges in Control

by Malcolm K. Sparrow

How should we deal with societal ills such as crime, poverty, pollution, terrorism, and corruption? The Character of Harms argues that control or mitigation of 'bad' things involves distinctive patterns of thought and action which turn out to be broadly applicable across a range of human endeavors, and which need to be better understood. Malcolm Sparrow demonstrates that an explicit focus on the bads, rather than on the countervailing goods (safety, prosperity, environmental stewardship, etc.) can provide rich opportunities for surgically efficient and effective interventions - an operational approach which he terms 'the sabotage of harms'. The book explores the institutional arrangements and decision-frameworks necessary to support this emerging operational model. Written for reflective practitioners charged with risk-control responsibilities across the public, private, and non-governmental sectors, The Character of Harms makes a powerful case for a new approach to tackling the complex problems facing society.

  • Cambridge University Press; April 2008
  • ISBN: 9780511401336
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Character of Harms
  • Author: Malcolm K. Sparrow
  • Imprint: Cambridge University Press

In The Press

'I was amazed, reading Malcolm Sparrow's book, at how powerfully a careful, focused definition of a problem can open the way to novel solutions. Sparrow makes clear that we often need to reverse direction, shifting the focus from promoting the general good to addressing specific harms. He shows how to do that, and how to proceed from there. It is a joy to read someone who, through practical experience, really knows what he is talking about.' Professor Tom Schelling, University of Maryland, Nobel Laureate in Economics