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Strings Attached:
Untangling the Ethics of Incentives
Ruth W. Grant

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [in PDF format]


"In Strings Attached, Ruth W. Grant examines the history, language, and ethics of incentives, both in the workplace and the realm of public policy. Grant, a professor at Duke, considers incentives to be a form of power, right alongside force and persuasion as methods people can use to get someone else to do what they want."--Biz Ed Magazine

"Grant examines the ethical implications of incentives, which she sees as a form of power. . . . Grant's conclusion is an excellent summary of the deeper democratic values threatened by unanalyzed use of incentives in public policy. This is an important contribution to both ethics and public policy."--Choice

"This book offers useful guidance about how to devise better incentives that direct people toward good choices without manipulating them."--Robert Mayer, Ethics

"In Strings Attached, Grant provides a rich and nuanced analysis of the issue of incentives, while still being accessible for a general public interested in the subject. Not specifically aimed at a specialized academic readership, the book nonetheless provides a thorough historical, ethical, and political perspective on incentives that should prove of interest to scholars in bioethics."--Maude Laliberté, Bioethical Inquiry

"Strings Attached makes you think . . . and above all, [it is] timely. [It] contribute[s] something substantial . . . and serve[s] as a reminder that the morality of markets and incentives is never a settled matter."--Raphael Calel, Economics and Philosophy

"[I]n its assault on economic perspectives, it packs a powerful punch. And from start to finish, the lucidity and grace of the exposition are unconditionally admirable: I never fear that I can't figure out what Grant is saying, and these days too many theory books make me fearful in just that way. This clarity means the book would be a complete winner in the classroom."--Don Herzog, Political Theory


"Strings Attached offers a fascinating tour of the history, morality, and unintended consequences of the modern obsession with using incentives to change behavior. Exploring cases from plea bargaining in criminal courts to paying students to earn good grades, Grant compellingly argues that using material incentives to get people to do things they otherwise would not raises important and previously unexamined questions about ethics, power, and character."--Lynn Stout, University of California, Los Angeles

"This remarkable book asks some deceptively simple questions: With what norms should we judge the use of incentives? How can we compare incentives to coercion and persuasion? With characteristically lucid prose and a productive blend of theory and case studies, Ruth Grant illuminates an often neglected arena of inquiry. At a time when philosophers advocate 'libertarian paternalism' as an alternative to coercion and governments deploy 'conditional cash transfers' as instruments of social policy, Grant's reflections could hardly be more relevant."--William Galston, The Brookings Institution

"Moving comfortably from Plato, modern philosophy, and organizational science to plea bargaining, medical research, and IMF loans, this impressive book lays bare some of the ethical complexities raised by the use of incentives in various social and political contexts. A comprehensive look at an underanalyzed topic, this book is a pleasure to read."--Alan Wertheimer, National Institutes of Health

"Strings Attached does a great job of exploring what needs to be considered when thinking about the ethics of incentives. Grant argues that choice and volition are not enough to answer ethical objections to the use of incentives, because not all choice and volition reflect the freedom and autonomy we aspire to. Policymakers and social scientists need to pay attention to this significant work. Thorough and accessible, it will be widely discussed and have a big impact."--Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice

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File created: 4/24/2017

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