chapter  4
18 Pages

Action, Intention and Work Incentives

Work disincentives allegedly caused by welfare policies are at the root of H. B. Acton’s predictions about human behaviour. He warns that few people will work in earnest if alternative incomes, such as benefits, are readily available. To fully understand this type of criticism, it is necessary to clarify the concept of incentives. The first section of this chapter will therefore analyse the meanings and relationships of action, intention and incentives. It thereby prepares the conceptual groundwork for the present discussion. The next two sections will contrast opposing understandings of work incentives, the so-called narrow and broad views. It will be seen in the second section that proponents of the work incentives argument against the welfare state accept only one type of incentive: a pecuniary one. They completely disregard other incentives. If indeed income was the only work incentive available, a substitute income from welfare institutions independent of work would be highly desirable for everybody. That this is doubtful will be shown by presenting a broad range of other work incentives in the third section.