Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives

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9780691161020: Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives

Incentives can be found everywhere--in schools, businesses, factories, and government--influencing people's choices about almost everything, from financial decisions and tobacco use to exercise and child rearing. So long as people have a choice, incentives seem innocuous. But Strings Attached demonstrates that when incentives are viewed as a kind of power rather than as a form of exchange, many ethical questions arise: How do incentives affect character and institutional culture? Can incentives be manipulative or exploitative, even if people are free to refuse them? What are the responsibilities of the powerful in using incentives? Ruth Grant shows that, like all other forms of power, incentives can be subject to abuse, and she identifies their legitimate and illegitimate uses.


Grant offers a history of the growth of incentives in early twentieth-century America, identifies standards for judging incentives, and examines incentives in four areas--plea bargaining, recruiting medical research subjects, International Monetary Fund loan conditions, and motivating students. In every case, the analysis of incentives in terms of power yields strikingly different and more complex judgments than an analysis that views incentives as trades, in which the desired behavior is freely exchanged for the incentives offered.


Challenging the role and function of incentives in a democracy, Strings Attached questions whether the penchant for constant incentivizing undermines active, autonomous citizenship. Readers of this book are sure to view the ethics of incentives in a new light.

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"Strings Attached offers a fascinating tour of the history, morality, and unintended consequences of the modern obsession with using incentives to change behavior. Exploring cases from plea bargaining in criminal courts to paying students to earn good grades, Grant compellingly argues that using material incentives to get people to do things they otherwise would not raises important and previously unexamined questions about ethics, power, and character."--Lynn Stout, University of California, Los Angeles


"This remarkable book asks some deceptively simple questions: With what norms should we judge the use of incentives? How can we compare incentives to coercion and persuasion? With characteristically lucid prose and a productive blend of theory and case studies, Ruth Grant illuminates an often neglected arena of inquiry. At a time when philosophers advocate 'libertarian paternalism' as an alternative to coercion and governments deploy 'conditional cash transfers' as instruments of social policy, Grant's reflections could hardly be more relevant."--William Galston, The Brookings Institution


"Moving comfortably from Plato, modern philosophy, and organizational science to plea bargaining, medical research, and IMF loans, this impressive book lays bare some of the ethical complexities raised by the use of incentives in various social and political contexts. A comprehensive look at an underanalyzed topic, this book is a pleasure to read."--Alan Wertheimer, National Institutes of Health


"Strings Attached does a great job of exploring what needs to be considered when thinking about the ethics of incentives. Grant argues that choice and volition are not enough to answer ethical objections to the use of incentives, because not all choice and volition reflect the freedom and autonomy we aspire to. Policymakers and social scientists need to pay attention to this significant work. Thorough and accessible, it will be widely discussed and have a big impact."--Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice


About the Author:

Ruth W. Grant is professor of political science and philosophy and a senior fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. She is the author of John Locke's Liberalism and Hypocrisy and Integrity.

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Incentives can be found everywhere - in schools, businesses, factories, and government - influencing people s choices about almost everything, from financial decisions and tobacco use to exercise and child rearing. So long as people have a choice, incentives seem innocuous. But Strings Attached demonstrates that when incentives are viewed as a kind of power rather than as a form of exchange, many ethical questions arise: How do incentives affect character and institutional culture? Can incentives be manipulative or exploitative, even if people are free to refuse them? What are the responsibilities of the powerful in using incentives? Ruth Grant shows that, like all other forms of power, incentives can be subject to abuse, and she identifies their legitimate and illegitimate uses. Grant offers a history of the growth of incentives in early twentieth-century America, identifies standards for judging incentives, and examines incentives in four areas - plea bargaining, recruiting medical research subjects, International Monetary Fund loan conditions, and motivating students. In every case, the analysis of incentives in terms of power yields strikingly different and more complex judgments than an analysis that views incentives as trades, in which the desired behavior is freely exchanged for the incentives offered. Challenging the role and function of incentives in a democracy, Strings Attached questions whether the penchant for constant incentivizing undermines active, autonomous citizenship. Readers of this book are sure to view the ethics of incentives in a new light. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780691161020

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Incentives can be found everywhere - in schools, businesses, factories, and government - influencing people s choices about almost everything, from financial decisions and tobacco use to exercise and child rearing. So long as people have a choice, incentives seem innocuous. But Strings Attached demonstrates that when incentives are viewed as a kind of power rather than as a form of exchange, many ethical questions arise: How do incentives affect character and institutional culture? Can incentives be manipulative or exploitative, even if people are free to refuse them? What are the responsibilities of the powerful in using incentives? Ruth Grant shows that, like all other forms of power, incentives can be subject to abuse, and she identifies their legitimate and illegitimate uses. Grant offers a history of the growth of incentives in early twentieth-century America, identifies standards for judging incentives, and examines incentives in four areas - plea bargaining, recruiting medical research subjects, International Monetary Fund loan conditions, and motivating students. In every case, the analysis of incentives in terms of power yields strikingly different and more complex judgments than an analysis that views incentives as trades, in which the desired behavior is freely exchanged for the incentives offered. Challenging the role and function of incentives in a democracy, Strings Attached questions whether the penchant for constant incentivizing undermines active, autonomous citizenship. Readers of this book are sure to view the ethics of incentives in a new light. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780691161020

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