Better Incentives Won't Lead to
Better Health Care, Say Schwartz and Sharpe
by Alisa Giardinelli
In a recent Slate essay, psychologist Barry Schwartz and political scientist Kenneth Sharpe diagnose the problem with America's health care system as not primarily one of costs or of care, but one of incentives:
"The truth is that incentives are just too blunt an instrument to do what is being asked of them. If we want doctors to practice good medicine, then we have to inspire them to practice good medicine - not because it 'pays' but precisely because it's good medicine. In short, we need people who want to do the right thing because it's the right thing. And it is here that incentives can become not just ineffective, but malign."
Schwartz, the Dorwin P. Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, explores the social and psychological effects of free-market economic institutions on moral, social, and civic concerns. Sharpe, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science, is the co-author of Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial, which examines the ineffectiveness of the America's punitive narcotics policy and calls instead for a public-health approach that aims to reduce demand for drugs. They are currently writing a book on practical wisdom, the subject of a TED Talk that Schwartz gave earlier this year.