Monday, October 16, 2006

Incentivizing the Masses

I grew up in the 60s, a time of moral relativism, in which the religious underpinning of moral behavior was abnegated and we were left with our gut as the only justification for our sense of right and wrong. Right and wrong became societal, not universal, and were subject to change.

Over the last 40 years, this tectonic shift in the foundation of moral behavior has led to a change in perspective: in the obverse of John Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you/Ask only what you can do for your country," we have shifted from talking about how we should behave to how to make people behave in desirable ways. The Ten Commandments have been replaced by the Constitution: that is, what is right is replaced by what is legal - an appeal to our sense of morality is replaced by incentives (both carrot and stick) to make us behave.

One might speculate whether the current cult of incentivizationalism will in turn lead to a backlash movement... antiincentivizationarianism, if you will.

Okay, sorry about this, I'm just messing with you. I couldn't sleep and thought up the word antiincentivizationarianism and wondered whether I could find a way to use it in context. Now I've scratched that itch...


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