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Strings AttachedUntangling the Ethics of Incentives$
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Ruth W. Grant

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151601

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151601.001.0001

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Why Worry about Incentives?

Why Worry about Incentives?

(p.1) Chapter One Why Worry about Incentives?
Strings Attached

Ruth W. Grant

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the ethics of incentives. In the modern world, incentives are becoming the tool we reach for when we wish to bring about change. In government, in education, in health care, in private life, and between and within institutions of all sorts, incentives are offered to steer people's choices in certain directions and to bring about desired policy outcomes. So what? you might well ask. Where is the ethical issue here? From a certain point of view, there is none. Incentives could be viewed as a form of trade. A person is offered something of value to him or her in exchange for doing something valued by the person making the offer. However, not all incentives and disincentives are alike. For instance, we recognize bribery and blackmail as wrong even though both can be described in neutral terms as situations in which a simple trade takes place. The discussion then turns to incentives as a form of power. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords:   incentives, ethics, power, change, disincentives, trade

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