Known for his numerous literary and theological works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis was also a keen observer of people and the consequences of their ideas—good or bad. He took note of the topsy-turvy world of postmodernist America with these cogent words: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
So behavior is actually influenced by the incentives and the disincentives we confront? You bet it is. This is an iron law of the human condition. The failure to understand it or apply it consistently explains many of the dystopian malfunctions that surround us.
The most ardent advocates of draconian taxes and regulations on smoking argue that such penalties will deter the smoker. Strange, isn’t it, that many of those same people think they can soak the entrepreneur, the investor, the saver, the employer, and the inventor with little or no negative consequence.
The future world we are creating will surely be shaped by the incentives and disincentives we are putting in place today. In that light we must hope that this warning from novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand does not also become our epitaph:“When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion; when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you; when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed.”