Thursday, June 22, 2006

What is an incentive?

On a previous entry, I asked non-determinists the killer question: what is an incentive?

An incentive is a path of preferred action traced by the feature of a system (any system, not just a mode of social organization). For example, a system where power is concentrated (systemic feature) will inevitably invite abuse of power (path of preferred action). A system that lacks accountability (systemic feature) invites inefficiency and corruption (path of preferred action). A system where accountability is important (systemic feature) invites efficiency and transparency (path of preferred action).

I use these words "path" and "traced" because they are appropriate. Sure, a person within that system can decide to act differently, but incentives present a path of least resistance. They entail that people will prefer acting in certain ways instead of others, because of the way the system is made.

Now, what does that imply for determinism? If people's minds are not causal, then there is no reason why incentives should exist at all. Why should individuals feel the pull of any specific path? Unfettered will should be able to decide on the basis of values only, without the input of any mere exterior factor. Saying that these incentives are influencing people can only be true if we do not have an unfettered will.

1 comment:

doinkicarus said...

Q. what happens when you combine a system in which power is concentrated, and a system which lacks accountability?


A. Starts with an "F," and ends with "ederal Reserve System"