There is a widely held belief that when designing public policy or legal systems, it makes the most sense to assume that all citizens are entirely self-interested and amoral. It’s a theory known as “homo economicus” or “economic man.” But, economist Samuel Bowles argues against that belief in his book The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives are no Substitute for Good Citizens. Bowles laid out the case for his argument during a recent talk at UC Berkeley.
Bowles says there are two key reasons to move away from the economic man idea. First, he says polices that follow the paradigm can be self-fulling – making the assumption of universal amorality truer than it might otherwise be under different policies. Second, he argues that fines and rewards often do not work as intended.
The problem Bowles argues, is that incentives can “crowd out” otherwise altruistic motives people might have for any given action. He cites the classic example of a daycare that imposed a small fee for parents who showed up late. The result? Many more late parents. The thinking goes that the fee turned being late into a commodity rather than an inconsiderate action. Thus, the incentive backfired, and ended up having the opposite of its intended effect.
However, Bowles says incentives themselves are not to blame. He argues they can be designed in a such a way to encourage good civic behavior, while avoiding possible pitfalls. For example, when Ireland wanted to get rid of plastic bags, lawmakers imposed a small tax. But, they paired the tax with a huge media campaign about not trashing the Emerald Isle. Appealing to citizens better nature made the difference, and most shoppers stopped using plastic bags within weeks.
Watch — The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives are No Substitute for Good Citizens
They are some of the most ambitious education programs of the 20th century – school desegregation, school finance reform, and Head Start. Today, many view these initiatives as failures, but professor Rucker C. Johnson of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy disagrees. He and a team of researchers combed through data from over four decades to figure out the true impact of these programs. Their findings are detailed alongside compelling stories of real people in Johnson’s new book, Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works. Recently, Johnson sat down with Goldman School Dean Henry E. Brady to discuss the book and his research.
Johnson and his colleagues used big data and new techniques to look at the wide-ranging impacts of school desegregation. They tracked everything from high school graduation rates, to employment, wages and health. Thanks to the uneven implementation of desegregation, Johnson was able to compare children who grew up in similar environments, but experienced different levels of desegregation. He found a big part of the positive impact came from how desegregation affected access to class resources, after school programs, quality teachers, and smaller class sizes. And, the longer a student spent in desegregated schools, the greater the impact. In fact, the achievement gap between white and black students closed faster following desegregation than at any other time in American history.
Unfortunately, the United States has moved away from integration. Today, many schools and classrooms are heavily divided along racial lines. Opponents of desegregation appear to have won. But, Johnson says there is still hope. He lays out the case for making integration a priority once again, using data to prove its effectiveness. He also delves into school finance reform and Head Start, showing how sustained investment in education is the surest way to change children’s lives for the better.
Watch The Success of Integrating Schools with Rucker Johnson — In the Living Room with Henry E. Brady
The criminal justice system’s impact on Latina and Latino people in Southern California and across the nation was the focus of the annual UCLA Law Review symposium at the UCLA School of Law. Featuring leading scholars and practitioners who work to uncover and combat the ways in which bias affects Latinx communities’ interactions with law enforcement, panelists addressed incarceration, policing, community organizing and criminal adjudication, plus related issues involving ethics and capital punishment.
UCLA Law professor emeritus Gerald López delivered the event’s keynote address. He captivated the crowd with reflections on his childhood in East Los Angeles in the 1950s, where he watched the criminal justice system target Latinx people — activity that, he noted, continues to this day.
“It left impressions on me that shape everything I do,” he said while encouraging budding attorneys and activists to continue his lifelong effort to respond to those challenges and “change the world.”
Browse more programs in Latinx Communities, Race, and the Criminal Justice System
Women played a huge role in the 2018 midterms. Women voters flipped districts across the country, and female candidates won a record number of congressional seats. So, what does it mean for American politics as a whole moving forward? Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Goldman School of Public Policy professor Sarah Anzia sat down with graduate student Charlotte Hill to examine what happened in 2018, and what might happen in 2020.
The conversation begins with an analysis of what led to the unprecedented wins of 2018. Both Anzia and Granholm point out there was a massive increase in women running as Democrats, but the number of Republican female candidates remained about the same as years past. Granholm argues the increase is evidence women are more motivated than ever before to get involved in politics, from the Women’s March to the voting booth. She suggests the lopsided nature of that motivation is in no small part a reaction to President Trump.
The other major change the panel noticed was women changing the way they campaigned. From ads that show candidates breastfeeding, to addressing sexual assault, professor Anzia says, “women were running as women.” While it may seem like a strange observation, Granholm agrees, saying she was advised not to show her children, and was coached on keeping her voice low when she was running. Granholm calls the new acceptance of women being their authentic selves a gift. She points to millennial representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as examples of women who have cast off restraints historically placed on women in office.
As of now, there are four women officially running for president in 2020. Granholm believes a woman will certainly be on the presidential ticket. But, will we finally see a woman in the White House? Will 2020 be another historic year for women? Only time will tell, but Anzia and Granholm have some predictions.
Watch Women in Politics with Jennifer Granholm, Sarah Anzia, and Charlotte Hill
There are just days left before the 2018 midterms, and analysts are split over what we can expect. Will there be a so-called blue wave, or will Republicans retain control of all branches of government?
That’s just one of the questions addressed by three political heavy-hitters at the Goldman School of Public Policy during a live-streamed discussion this week. Professor Robert B. Reich, Dean Henry E. Brady, and University of California President and Goldman School Professor Janet Napolitano gave their best predictions for Tuesday. Napolitano predicts Democrats will take back the house, but possibly lose ground in the Senate. Reich points to gerrymandering and voter suppression, saying it’s unlikely Democrats will be able to pick up a majority in either house. Brady looks at historical methods of predicting midterm results, but questions whether the old rules still apply.
But, the discussion doesn’t stop at predictions. The panel weighs in on what they see as the biggest issues for voters, how we got to this point in American politics, and what might happen next. Reich lays out three things he believes the Democratic party needs to focus on whether they win or lose on Tuesday, and gives a riveting monologue about the role of truth in a democracy. The discussion ends on a high note, with Reich and Napolitano sharing why they’re optimistic about the future of politics in the United States.
Watch The Coming Wave? 2018 Midterm Election Panel Featuring: Robert Reich, Janet Napolitano, and Henry E. Brady