About This Site

Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
(What are figures of speech?)
Ask Figaro a question!

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    « Plus, the Maggots Skipped the Baggage Fee | Main | Small People Are Tropical »

    Incentivized Yet?

    determine outcomes.

    Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, in Slate

    epiphoneme (eh-PIH-fo-neem), the memorable summary. From the Greek epiphonema, meaning “proclaim upon.”

    Want to predict how a business or institution will behave? Follow the incentives. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer claims that incentives caused the BP oil spill and the financial meltdown; in each case, government assumed the risks while removing regulatory oversight and limiting legal liability. So, following the path of least resistance to profit, the guilty companies took chances that would have seemed insane 20 years ago.

    This is complicated stuff, and it demands a simple summary. Spitzer provides one—sort of—in the form of an epiphoneme, a snappy sum-up that can stand on its own. Charles Darwin provided one of the greatest epiphonemes of all time here. Alas, Spitzer proved he is no Darwin by writing, “Incentives matter. In fact, they determine outcomes.”

    Figaro stepped in where Slate’s editors feared to tread. If they had pushed the man just a little, Slate might even have produced an epiphoneme they could call Spitzer’s Law: Incentives determine behavior.

    But then, some people may have wondered just what incentivized Spitzer to pay $15,000 for certain, um, outcomes.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (5)

    So to sum up: On Gulf oil spill, Slate shoots blanks.
    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterseanmcnall
    And scores.
    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Is an epiphoneme the same as an epiphany?
    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSieg
    No. An epiphany is the manifestation of a god on Earth, while an epiphoneme is a witty summary.
    June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Not to stray from the topic, but would regulatory oversight have been necessary had the legal liability not been removed? Is this not a variation of moral hazard? Furthermore, could it not be argued that regulatory oversight contributed to this disaster since, to paraphrase one drilling expert, oversight drove drilling from shallow water (+-200') where it is significantly safer and easier to control, to deep water (+-2 miles) where it is extremely difficult to drill safely?
    July 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Olson

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.