Just another commodity

Reason Magazine has an article about Samuel Bowles, director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute, and his argument that “policies designed for self-interested citizens may undermine ‘the moral sentiments.'”

To explore the interaction of moral sentiments and self-interest, Bowles begins with a case where six day care centers in Haifa, Israel imposed a fine on parents who picked their kids up late. The fine aimed to encourage parents to be more prompt. Instead, parents reacted to the fine by coming even later. Why? According to Bowles: “The fine seems to have undermined the parents’ sense of ethical obligation to avoid inconveniencing the teachers and led them to think of lateness as just another commodity they could purchase.”

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