School of Law

Strings Attached: The Ethics of Incentives

15 July 2013 | 17:00H | Conference
Moot Court Room, Liberty Building

Public lecture by Professor Ruth Grant, Duke University

Incentives can be found everywhere -- in schools, businesses, factories, and government -- influencing people's choices about almost everything, from financial decisions and tobacco use to exercise and child rearing. So long as people have a choice, incentives seem innocuous.

Ruth Grant argues instead that when incentives are viewed as a kind of power rather than as a form of exchange, many ethical questions arise in addition to voluntariness: What are the responsibilities of the powerful in using incentives? Can incentives be manipulative or exploitative, even if people are free to refuse them? How do incentives affect character and institutional culture? Like all other forms of power, incentives can be subject to abuse.  Ruth Grant will explore how we can distinguish their legitimate and illegitimate uses.

Ruth W. Grant is Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, and a senior fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, at Duke University. She is the author of Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives (Princeton University Press, 2012) one of CHOICE's "Outstanding Academic Titles" for 2012, as well as John Locke's Liberalism and Hypocrisy and Integrity.



Carrot and Sticks: New Regulatory Approaches to Crime and Behavioural Control

During her visit, Professor Grant will be contributing to a conference hosted by the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies entitled 'Carrots and Sticks: New Regulatory Approaches to Crime and Behavioural Control', which will take place at the University of Leeds on Tuesday 16 July 2013.

The conference will explore the applicability and use of various incentives and 'nudges' that seek to encourage, enable and support individuals already engaged in criminal and/or anti-social behaviour, as well as those judged as at risk of doing so, in making more socially desirable choices.

In so doing, the conference will explore whether alternative (more interventionist) approaches are used or should be used to regulate these groups, and consider the implications of using 'sticks', 'carrots' or a mix of both as the main tools within responsibilisation strategies.

The conference will explore incentives and nudges in two key policy areas: housing and anti-social behaviour, and drugs and alcohol. We plan to publish papers from the conference in a special issue of an academic journal.

For further information about the conference, contact Dr Emma Wincup at

Location Details

The event will be held in the Liberty Building, School of Law, Moorland Road, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT (if using SatNav, please use postcode LS6 1AN).

The Liberty Building is situated on the corner of Moorland Road and Belle Vue Road on the Western Campus of the University of Leeds. It is situated behind the Maurice Keyworth Building (Business School). It is shown on the map below and building no 16 on the campus map.

From Leeds train station, it is a 30 minute walk or you can take a taxi for around £5.00. Alternatively, the number 56 bus runs from Albion Street via Woodhouse Lane (A660) and stops on Moorland Road. These run every 10 minutes.

If travelling by car, there is a visitors' car park at the south end of the University campus or there is limited four-hour street parking on Belle Vue Road immediately behind the Liberty Building.

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