Incentives: II


The other day I asked if we could incent people to cross a reasonably busy freeway by growing the financial reward for doing so?  For example, line 1000 people up on an interstate highway and place $5 on the other side.  Some number of people, maybe zero, will try to cross to claim that $5.

Now make it $500.  More people will try to cross for $500 than will try for $5.

We all agree.  We get it.

In short, we know that incentives matter.

Go back to the scenario.  Suppose that the financial reward for crossing the freeway became large enough that a relatively significant number of people made the attempt.  And one of them was struck by a car and perished as a result.

Who is to blame?

  1. The driver of the car?
  2. The the individual creating the incentive?
  3. The individual who attempted to cross the freeway?
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1 comment
  1. The driver of the car if and only if he purposefully tried to kill the street crosser.

    Otherwise, assuming it was an accident, blame is shared. Someone offering an incentive to get someone to do something dangerous just for money is partially to blame. Now, if he had another reason for offering the incentive (he was out of gas and he needed someone to bring him gas and he paid someone to take the risk) then it would still be shared, but I’d put more of the blame on the person trying to get the money. It would still be shared blame though. The car driver, again only if willful or if there was some negligence (the driver was drunk, texting, or something like that). Then maybe all three would share blame!

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