Swickard: Our missing incentives for success

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. A friend likes to say, “If you do not get what you want, check the incentives you are using.” That is great advice. Everything in life is tied to incentives and we must use correct incentives to be successful. 
     B. F. Skinner contended we humans are conditioned to do more of what we like and less of what we dislike. If what we like leads us to success, then we are successful. Since this is not rocket science, all humans should be happy. However, for the most part many Americans are not happy.
      One explainer is that humans are noted for their contradictions. Doing wrong things and expecting successful outcomes is a contradiction. Worse, people continue doing wrong things even though they never get success. Buying Lottery tickets and expecting to win comes to mind.
     Does that mean the incentive factors do not work? No, they work all too well. Our missing incentives for success condemn most of us to not achieving the success we want. But it can change in an instant when we realize that we must use the right incentives.
     Most of us wish to live in a society where our children and grandchildren live better lives than us. It was the wish of my grandparents and my parents that I live a better life. The rub is that this generation has spent the last forty years spending our money and our children’s money and our grandchildren’s money.
     The national debt is around Seventy Trillion dollars which works out to about a quarter million dollars of debt for every man, woman and child in our nation. And it is getting worse. More Americans are riding in the cart and fewer are pulling the financial cart. Will my children and grandchildren live a better life than me? Not if my generation leaves nothing but debts.
     Of course it could all change if our energy policy was such that America was energy independent and our private sector was going strong. This assumes politicians not spend that extra bounty. With the extra revenue America could reign in the runaway spending and leave a fine world for our children.
     This leads me to wonder: what incentives have we Americans put in place for our economy to zoom and dispense with this overwhelming debt? None, we are still printing money. We have turned off the engine of prosperity for political reasons. Politicians passed a healthcare law that takes the private sector to its knees. Read full column