Monetary incentives may “crowd out” ethical and generous motives and thus backfire.
Should economic man — the amoral and self-interested Homo economicus that is the foundation of most economic models — determine how we expect people to respond to monetary rewards, punishments, and other incentives? Sam Bowles thinks not. Policies that follow from this paradigm, he says, may “crowd out” ethical and generous motives and thus backfire. Treating people as if they were purely motivated by selfishness fails to acknowledge generous, altruistic, and ethical motives that well-governed societies depend on.