Reward People for Good Behavior and Society WILL Be Better
People Enjoy Rewards, Not Punishment
Congress passes up to 200 new laws every year. Each state passes dozens more. Meanwhile, thousands of new regulations are added to the books…all designed to control our behavior. Our society is full of laws and rules that have clear consequences if you don’t follow them. But why aren’t we ever rewarded for our good behavior? It’s been proven time and time again that rewards work better to motivate people!
Clear Consequences for Bad Behavior
Laws define our everyday life. We have to wear clothes. We can’t jaywalk. Can’t steal from others. Can’t harm others. We must pay our taxes. The list goes on and on. If we break any laws, we can get fined, jailed, or even executed in some states. The laws exist to deter our bad behavior by defining clear punishments for going astray. But is this really working? Does a system of punishments make a great society?
No. Clearly not. Crime is as rampant as ever. Perhaps we need to try something else!
Rewards Motivate People
When there is a clear goal to be achieved, humans can be very motivated. Whether it be a sports championship, or law degree, or creating timeless art, humans love to set their minds to rewarding tasks. Humans love to achieve and be rewarded.
Studies back this up. Pavlok.com concludes that while consequences have the strongest immediate impact on human behavior, positive reinforcement is a way more powerful long-term motivator.
For example, I touch a hot pan and burn myself, I’m very unlikely to touch that pan again (or touch other hot objects). Or if I break a law and go to jail for awhile, I’m unlikely to break that law again when I get out.
But when our society focuses on stopping us from being bad, or engaging in behaviors that have clear consequences, where is the motivation to be good? To help others? To protect the environment? Or any other list of behaviors that benefit society? There just isn’t much.
In our system focused on consequences, we just sit back and hope people will be good for goodness sake. And there are definitely good people doing good things. But that’s not enough. We can do more. We can motivate people with rewards.
Applying Rewards to Society
For example, if we want people to not jaywalk anymore, we could pay them money for every year they don’t get caught jaywalking. If we want people to help the homeless and feed the needy, we could reward them with tax breaks for doing so. We could offer rewards to people who aren’t violent, who drive safely, who mentor children, and so much more. We could offer increasing rewards for those who maintain good behavior for longer periods of time.
We could also create specific goals for us to strive for. For example, we could offer a humanitarian reward to someone who builds a certain number of homes for the homeless that gives them additional monetary reward plus social status. Or perhaps a different humanitarian reward if they mentor a hundred children, or plant ten thousand trees, or invent an new medicine — you get the point.
We Need Both Punishment and Reward
In my opinion, society needs to be built on punishment and reward. Yes, there needs to be consequences for breaking the law. But they’re also needs to be rewards for being a good person. The more rewards we give for good behavior, the more likely people are to choose good behavior. It’s good behavior that makes society great not just a lack of bad behavior.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if someone’s being nice because they are a nice person or because they are being rewarded to be nice. The nice behavior is the goal. Anyway we can get people to behave better is therefore good and just.
Adding a reward system is just the first step in fixing our society. We also need to move toward a shared-resource model and away from competition and capitalism. But that is a subject for a different article!
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