Control is a deeply entrenched aspect of contemporary human societies: we control human behavior through laws, incentives, threats, contracts, and agreements; we control the effects of environmental variation by con- structing safe dwellings; we control variation in our food resources by growing and storing agricultural products; we control human parasites and pathogens through good hygiene and medical technologies. All contribute to stable societies and human health and happiness, and within certain arenas this desire to control is undeniably to our individual and collective benefit. This approach to solving problems may be collectively referred to as “command and control”    in which a problem is percived and a solution for its control is developed and implemented. The expectation is that the solution is direct, appropriate, feasible, and effective over most relevant spatial and temporal scales. Most of all, command and control is expected to solve the problem either through control of the processes that lead to the problem (e.g., good hygiene to prevent disease, or laws that direct human behavior) or through amelioration of the problem after it occurs (e.g., pharmaceuticals to kill disease organisms, or prisons or other punishment of lawbreakers). The command-and-control approach implicitly assumes that the problem is well-bounded, clearly defined, relatively simple, and generally linear with respect to cause and effect. But when these same methods of control are applied to a complex, nonlinear, and poorly understood natural world, and when the same predictable outcomes are expected but rarely obtained, severe ecological, social, and economic repercussions result.

Holling, C. S., and G. K. Meffe. 1996. Command and Control and the Pathology of Natural Resource Management. Conservation Biology 10, no. 2: 328-37.