Rev Austrian Econ (2006) 19: 137–147
Converting social conﬂict: Focal points and the evolution
Peter T. Leeson · Christopher J. Coyne · Peter J. Boettke
Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006
Abstract We examine the ability of focal points to transform situations of potential conﬂict
into situations of cooperation. In performing this function, focal points convert “worst-case
scenarios” into “better-case scenarios,” which are easier for political economic systems to
handle. Focal points thus contribute to the ability of political economies to perform well in
the face of less than ideal conditions, enhancing systemic robustness.
Keywords Focal points
JEL Code P0
Robustness requires a system to perform well in the face of deviations from ideal conditions.
Ideal conditions, manifested in the form of assumptions about perfect information, complete
markets, instantaneous adjustment, etc., are not difﬁcult to come by in economics. In fact,
many would argue that ideal conditions are a hallmark of economic analysis. The familiar
joke about three social scientists stranded on an island without food bears testament to this
fact. In trying to devise a solution to this conundrum the economist suggests that their hunger
can be overcome by simply assuming the presence of food.
P. T. Leeson (
Department of Economics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, 26505-6025
C. J. Coyne
Department of Economics, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23493
P. J. Boettke
Department of Economics, MSN 3G4, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030