Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ian Welsh discusses the connection between one's view of human nature and one's preferred social and economic policies - while noting that policies themselves serve to shape behaviour:
The fact is this: incentives work.

The second fact is this: using strong incentives is usually idiocy, because they do work.

What happens with incentives is that people’s behaviour is warped by them.  A normal doctor who does not get paid more per test he orders, orders less tests.  A doctor who owns the facility which does the testing, does more tests.  Management has a saying “what gets measured, gets managed”.  Yeah—and nothing else does.

Paying people enough, and trusting their own judgment about what is important tends to produce better results, because people don’t ignore everything else to leap for the incentives and to meet the measurements some doofus is managing.  And they don’t go out of their way to manipulate the measurements, which is what happens when reward and punishment are linked to metrics.
[Humans] have multiple drives, and how much of what drive is expressed in each of us is different and changes based on the context.  Put people in a world where people are cruel to them, and they will become cruel.  Put them in a world where people are kind, and most of them will become kind.

None of us is just one thing; each of us changes and changes quickly, from day to day; year to year; sometimes even minute to minute.  We are capable of expressing cruelty sufficient to make demons weep; and kindness that would awe an angel but which we will do and when, depends so much on what who we believe we are, how we are treated and what we are told our nature is.

If we want the better angels of our nature to soar, we have to admit that they exist.  If we insist that we are all devils, all selfish bastards, we will build our societies based on that expectation, and we will make our prophecies come true.
- Meanwhile, William Watson suggests that it's long past time to stop feeding corporate sharks at the expense of the public - though of course his argument that we should instead give the sharks as much leeway as possible to hunt for themselves raises its own questions. Jared Milne writes about the costs of tax slashing. And the Broadbent Institute's latest polling suggests that inequality and job insecurity - the inevitable consequences of a corporatist mindset - represent for a price few Canadians want to pay.

- Josh Eidelson writes that the corporate right in the U.S. - like that in Canada - has no interest in allowing free speech where workers seek to speak out. And PressProgress notes that Canada's own Museum for Human Rights apparently won't allow free speech where it might prove inconvenient for Stephen Harper.

- Finally, Ryan Meili writes about the need to improve the social determinants of health - rather than using them as an excuse to deny access to care as Nova Scotia's Libs proposed. And Frances Russell reminds us that even the health care we have now is under attack - and that the Cons have had plenty of Lib assistance in chipping away at a functional national health care system.

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