Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ethics of “Achieve This Level and Get the Goodies”

Two news articles highlight suspect behavior in reaching a certain level to enjoy the benefits accompanying such a performance. The first concerned an Ohio coin dealer intent on obtaining Bush Pioneer campaign status. Tom Noe wanted the perks that come with being a Pioneer, virtual access to administration officials, visits to the White House and Crawford Ranch. In his defense Mr. Noe had this to say:

Noe said in court he accepts responsibility for his crime but contended the Bush campaign pressured him in 2003 to attain "Pioneer" status by raising at least $100,000

The second story arose from the President’s No Child Left Behind education initiative which rewards schools that perform at a high level. The Texas Education Agency has $10 million to distribute to economically disadvantaged schools based on improved test scores and high campus ratings. 30% of the money is on hold due to “unusual or unexpected patterns in test scores”. The TEA pays a contractor over $500,000 to detect cheating.

Who implements a system that causes 30% of participants to cheat and costs 5% of the bonus amount to detect cheating? No system, no cheating, no costs for detection.

Pioneer status, pay for performance, external reward systems don’t encourage people to focus on doing the work well and ethically. Bad systems produce bad results. Bush is the bringer of such systems as he expands his bribes to medical care.

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