Crowding Out Morality: How the Ideology of Self-Interest Can Be Self-Fulfilling

Barry Schwartz

in Ideology, Psychology, and Law

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199737512
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918638 | DOI:

Series: Series in Political Psychology

Crowding Out Morality: How the Ideology of Self-Interest Can Be Self-Fulfilling

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“If you want someone to do something, you have to make it worth their while.” This uncontroversial statement is the watchword of our time. It is the core assumption of economics and of rational choice theory. It is the linchpin of free market ideology. And it explains why the first place we look in matters of public policy—from regulating financial markets to improving the quality of education to reducing the high costs of health care—is to the incentive system that governs the behavior of current practitioners. Uncontroversial. Self-evident. And false. This chapter argues that the reductive appeal to self-interest as the master human motive is a false description of human nature. At the same time, it can become a true description if people live in a world in which incentives are presumed to explain everything and are used to produce the behavior we want.

Keywords: ideology; self-interest; incentives; motivational crowding out; self-fulfilling prophesies

Chapter.  11373 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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