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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

Few things happen in the absence of incentive.

Why do we go to work?  So we can eat.

Why do we pay taxes? So we don’t go to jail.

Why do we brush our teeth?  So we can keep them.  (See “why do we go to work”)

A defining charactistic of individual humans is their tolerance level for pain.  This tolerance drives how much incentive is required to compel a response.  Every human, like everything else in nature, is shaped by stimulus and response.  Take away the stimulus, and the likelihood of response goes to almost nil.

The incentive granularity is almost infinite.  Take the work example – we want to do more than eat, of course.  We want to live in a nice place, have nice things, maybe save for retirement.  So, you work harder.  You strive for promotions.  The incentive? you want more stuff.  Different people have different incentives, and the variances in the tolerance for pain/discomfort also account for why some people strive harder than others.

So what happens when you remove the stimulus?

If our teeth were preserved whether we brushed them or not, we probably wouldn’t brush them.

If we didn’t go to jail for not paying taxes, we probably wouldn’t pay them.

If we got free food and housing , we probably wouldn’t go to work.

Unfortunately, the human race hasn’t evolved enough from our caveman days to act much different than, well, cavemen.  As a whole, we’re not “in it for the greater good.”  We don’t do something because “it’s the right thing to do” until we’re taught to do so. 

And by “taught”, I mean “incentivized.”

And lo, the people did comment thus:


  1. Ren says:

    I would say that incentives are more complicated than you imply. Why do people:
    work as volunteer fire fighters?
    give anonymously to charities?
    continue working when they don’t need the money?
    clean their dentures?

    The taxes example is more difficult because of how detached people typically are from the benefits they receive from their taxes, of which there are many. This argues for taxes do be more directly related to their purpose, such as tolls or social security, but that’s very difficult in most cases.

    To diverge a bit from your topic, can you think of a single large area of tax spending that you think a strong majority (>60%) of the population would be wholly in favor of reducing? (And “waste” or “inefficiency” isn’t a valid answer.)
    .-= Ren´s last blog ..Turbo Answers Via Google Suggestions =-.

  2. Sybil Law says:

    Ren kinda took my argument, with the volunteer and charity stuff.
    .-= Sybil Law´s last blog ..Oh no she di’int! =-.

  3. Dave2 says:

    Make no mistake… I brush my teeth for that minty-clean breath that the ladies love!
    .-= Dave2´s last blog ..Cock! =-.

  4. Finn says:

    Wow. That’s cynical. Certainly there’s some truth to it, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture.
    .-= Finn´s last blog ..Dramatic Irony =-.

  5. Applause, applause, applause!! While there are good people in the world who want to do the right thing and do works of charity, there are far more who would be perfectly content to just sit on the couch and do nothing.
    .-= BlondeBlogger´s last blog ..Stupid Haloscan =-.

  6. Absurdist says:

    Your logical steps to conclusion are broken down succinctly, and would appear to make logical sense. It’s deceptively simple however.

    What you have not taken into account is the human capacity for introspection, creativity, compassion and empathy.

    Although most times people are predictable, human nature is such that, when one is faced with nefarious conditions or predicaments, he or she may change his or her predictable pattern of behavior considerably. And that behavior may very well be one of selflessness, valor, or any other characteristic that you have not mentioned above.

    We are quite unpredictable. This is why we, as human beings cannot be broken down through logical deduction like you have done above.
    .-= Absurdist´s last blog ..Why Your Money Is In Good Hands In Banks =-.

  7. golfwidow says:

    That’s part of why it took me so long to quit smoking. I used to “give myself” a cigarette as a reward for meeting a deadline, folding the laundry, or getting the groceries put away.
    .-= golfwidow´s last blog ..bits, bites, and bud =-.

  8. Nick Danger says:

    I suggest you read Abraham Maslow, and then just about anyone else on motivational theory. You’ll see you have over simplified and over generalized quite a bit. As a fan of logic, I’m sure you’ll recognize the fallacy.

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