Tag: Incentives

Twitter, Baskets of Hands, and the Incentive Problem

 

I should state up front that I do not use Twitter. I have occasionally followed a link to Twitter, but I don’t linger there. It is a confusing mess that seems to bring out the very worst in people. It seems that Twitter is starting to realize this, and to understand that the solution may not be in controlling who has access to Twitter, but in how the system rewards its users. We all respond to incentives. We all, to some degree, are rewards junkies – when certain behaviors are rewarded, we repeat and amplify those behaviors to receive more of those rewards. Twitter’s problem, as its CEO Jack Dorsey has begun to understand, is that it rewards awful behavior, rage, groupthink, bullying, and dehumanizing its users.  A Buzzfeed article from May 15th details how Twitter is experimenting with a new interface – one that reduces the incentives for the worst of behavior, and perhaps restores some humanity.

In its early years Twitter optimized for engagement, which engagement features (replies, and the like and retweet buttons) and metrics (number of followers, likes, retweets, and replies) help to deliver. So now it’s trying to shift what it encourages people to do.

Addressing the Minimum Wage Conundrum: A Proposal

 
a katz / Shutterstock.com

a katz / Shutterstock.com

The minimum wage has been a prominent issue of late, with the Left arguing for significant increases thereof and the Right pointing to the likely catastrophic consequences of such an increase. Even absent a potential increase, economic difficulties still arguably exist at the low-income margin.

Depriving the Poor of Carrots

 

shutterstock_161667092Conservatives all know that the welfare state muffles the punitive incentives the poor feel. It’s a subject we never seem to tire of talking about it. Less mentioned, though, is how the regulatory state suppresses the rewarding incentives the poor would otherwise feel. Why is this?

That people respond to rewards is such a basic element of human nature that it’s often taken for granted; it’s easy (especially for the conservative temperament) to focus on the punishments instead. Perhaps most of us never experience the kind of toxic situation or inner demons that makes all paths ahead seem like paths of punishment, but someone who has experienced that knows that punishment produces nothing useful if there isn’t an alternative reward. People who cannot trust that there are carrots lurking somewhere among the sticks often just give up.

Getting off welfare is hard enough for the average human soul. It’s made even harder when productive alternatives to welfare are illegal.