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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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Ethical and Not So Ethical Incentives

Ethical and Not So Ethical Incentives

(p.45) Chapter Four Ethical and Not So Ethical Incentives
Strings Attached

Ruth W. Grant

Princeton University Press

This chapter suggests three basic standards for distinguishing ethical from unethical uses of incentives. These are legitimacy of purpose, voluntariness, and effect on the character of the parties involved. These standards, in turn, rest on the notion that ethical uses of any kind of power must treat human beings as free and rational agents. Acts of power can be judged by whether they serve a rationally defensible purpose, whether they allow for a voluntary response or are based on freely given consent, and whether they accord with the requirements of moral character. These are the conceptual materials we can use to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate incentives, just as we would distinguish between the use and abuse of other forms of power.

Keywords:   ethical incentives, unethical incentives, purpose, voluntariness, power, persuasion

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