It's elementary, my dear Abbott
FRED L. MORRISON
To be true to Sherlock Holmes, one must look for the most elementary causes. In Silver Blaze, Holmes noted that the dog had not barked when the horse Silver Blaze was abducted from the stable. So, Holmes concluded, the perpetrator had to have been one whom the dog trusted. By process of elimination, Holmes deduced that Straker, the horse's trainer (who had been killed on the night of the abduction, and thus escaped the suspicion of less talented investigators), was the only remaining possibility. A dog would not, of course, bark at its own master. When Holmes knew these facts and confirmed them with other clues, he concluded that the deceased Straker had, indeed, beenresponsible fortheabductionof Silver Blaze. Holmes, of course, always looked for the most elementary clues, and was not led astray by the merely apparent conclusions.
In their essay, Kenneth Abbott and Duncan Snidal explore why the WTO dog didn't bark on issues of trade-related corruption and foreign bribery.1 Like Dr. Watson and the hapless police inspectors, they don't look deep enough for the elementary clues.
Abbott and Snidal have a rather complex theory about why the WTO dog didn't bark. It has to do with varying coalitions which might have pursued the bribery and corruption issue through the trade organization, and why they didn't coalesce. This solution is full of logic, but overlooks a fundamental flaw. It doesn't understand the nature of the beast that should have barked. It has an air of inherent plausibility, yet it somehow fails to achieve the simplicity and elegance of the Sherlock Holmes solution.
The real cause that the dog didn't bark is, of course, elementary. It lies in the dog's breeding and training. The dog in Silver Blaze was a watch dog. He was trained to bark whenever any stranger entered the paddock or stable. But not all dogs are bred or trained to bark at strangers. Some dogs, like setters, are bred for hunting. Others are bred as watch dogs. Some are good with children. Some dogs, owned by the Customs Service, almost never bark, unless they smell illicit drugs.
My own dog, Fuzzball, is a bearded collie, a sheep dog. His sole concern in life is that none of his sheep leave the herd. It doesn't matter that we don't have any____________________