Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Morality vs agency

Agency is the engine behind most actions and systems.

Morality is weak. You cannot rely on morality alone to preserve and manage systems.

Every country uses punishment and various incentives to make humans and companies behave.

Thus, expecting countries to "behave" due to moral arguments is naive and doesn't work.

People thought that moral arguments will win the day for migration / international peace / democracy. It doesn't and won't work.

Incentives work. But you need nifty incentive structures to:
1) make it work
2) make people adopt it.


Regarding incentives to adopt (2 above):
You might design the system with stages, so that the initial stages will not have disincentives to current stakeholders, but the long term design will be optimal. Yeah, it feels imoral, dishonest and corrupt. But this is the way you can get it done best.

Lee Kuan Yew, the legendary Singapore leader argued that we should give immunity to dictators that step down peacefully. Of course it is "imoral", but we would have saved many lives this way, and many more countries would have gone democratic, had his idea been implemented