Sticky Law & ORV Use

I’ve been working for some time on an article about how policymakers could and should reduce the law’s transmission costs by developing rules which stick and which are then re-transmitted and thus are passed among citizens without heavy-handed enforcement campaigns.  This is different from saying that policymakers should make rules which are merely memorable: the goal is to increase the influence of the rule by making it likely that individuals will spread knowledge of it widely with less government effort.  Recently, one of my students, Bill Scarpato, worked on this problem in a particular context: off-road vehicle use on public lands.  His draft paper, Don’t Tread on Me: Increasing Compliance with Off-Road Vehicle Use at Least Cost is up on ssrn. From the abstract:

In a world of diminished enforcement resources, how can environmental regulators get the most bang for their buck? Off-road vehicle use is the fastest growing and most contentious form of recreation on America’s public lands. Motorized recreationists have enjoyed access to National Forests and BLM land for almost a century, but regulators, property owners, and environmental groups have voiced opposition to unconstrained off-road vehicle use. Law enforcement on these lands is underfunded and ineffective, and the individualist culture of off-road vehicle users is said to foster an attitude of non-compliance — trailblazing in the literal sense. Endorsing and building upon work in law and social norms and cognate disciplines, this Article draws principally on the social psychology of effective messaging outlined in Chip and Dan Heath’s 2007 work, Made to Stick, to propose a partnership-based campaign based on the exhortatory theme, “Don’t Tread on Me.”

I think Bill did a nice job of laying out the research and applying it in a creative way to a very hard problem.  Check it out.

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