A nudge for (car) noise pollution in the city

More than a decade ago, John Tierney suggested that New York keep a supply of cranks on hand to help enforce social norms like not littering or playing loud music. In his column, The Boor War, he quoted Robert Axelrod, a political science professor at Michigan and author of the terrific The Evolution of Cooperation. Tierney settled on eggs as the primary urban deterrent.

Which is to say, we need more cranks. We need cab passengers to punish noise pollution by refusing to tip drivers who honk. Guests at dinner parties should refuse to sit next to anyone who owns a car alarm. Apartment dwellers who live above wailing cars should contemplate today’s most hotly debated moral question among urban cranks: to egg or not to egg?

“Throwing an egg at a car is a low-cost way to impose a relatively high-cost penalty on the violator of a norm,” Alexrod said, “so it could well work as an enforcement strategy. But it makes me uncomfortable. You’re violating the law. In this case, citizens are probably better off pressuring the government to enforce the norm.”

Reader Andrew Miller, a New York City resident, has an even better idea for cutting down on angry honking: Raise the volume of the horn inside the car. To allow for necessary warning honks while deterring lead fists on the horn, Miller suggests designing the volume control so that it increases after one second.

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