Re: Incentives LO1334

Michael McMaster (
Sun, 21 May 1995 08:00:57 +0000

Replying to LO1300 --

Tom inserts a single word into my speculations about a marketplace
that changes everything. I said:
> >One of the possible social learnings that might breakthrough this
> >area (is) for those who come for employment to realise that they are
> >free and independent agents in a marketplace. And that, like all
> >marketplaces, they can enter the marketplace they habitually use or
> >other marketplaces at any time.

Tom says:
> Sir, what do you mean, "they can enter the marketplace they habitually
> use...?" Are you suggesting that it is time employees all realize that we
> live in a competitive marketplace and that they have these realizations
> everyday?

The word is "competition".

I suggest that the inclusion of this word changes the context, the
spirit and the pragmatics of the speculation. Yet I don't exclude
the features that Tom mentions. Yes, concern for one's own tools of
the trade, the opportunity to reject a job or be rejected, expanding
one's own personal capabilities, etc. would become a part of the full
picture in a way that they currently are not.

However, two small deconstructions may provide us with a new opening
here. The first is to discover how much we live inside of a model of
competition - including our resistance to the idea - and how we can
view almost any "reality" situation as competitive.

What is operating in nature - competition or cooperation? Both is
not a bad answer. Cooperation first and competition "after" might be
closer to what it takes for continued survival and certainly for the
increasing complexity that we see so far. But the best answer might
be "neither". That is, the idea of competition (and cooperation) are
supplied by an observer. They are not actually _happening_. What is
happening is just the playing out of many factors which we label as
one or the other. (There was a wonderful book I read many years ago
called "Finite and Infinite Games" which provides an excellent
perspective on this.)

The second deconstruction is from the assumption reflected in the
following snip:
> Here's the rub. An internal client could have the
> option to reject the service of the staff employee and outsource the need.

The assumption has been made that I'm talking within the context of
one company and that I'm suggesting "internal" marketplaces. This is
the trap that I was trying to avoid. Within the bounds of a single
company and with no choice in the larger marketplace to have gainful
employment, we are trapped into playing the game of the company -
however good or bad in our judgement. What I meant to suggest was
that the larger marketplace of employment is always open and we can
express that inside a particular company, inside any company or as an
independent agent. (In the UK, there is a _very_ high percentage of
engineering and labour contracting that is individual and sometimes
ends up being very long term with a single company-client.)

The importance of this deconstruction is made vivid by the following
> This still looks like a reward
> system which is even more than pay-for-perforance/incentive to do better.
> It looks like a system which is do better or die, the survival of the
> fittest syndrome of a highly competitive marketplace. (IMHO, this is
> reality - sooner or later, it is reality).

I suggest that it "still looks like a reward system" partly because
of being applied within the too narrow context of a single company
and partly because of the (implicit) view that "reality is
competition" (my term for what I see is the underlying view). Given
this view, I think that we are in a double bind. Anything we do will
appear to be more competition except things like "pay everyone
equally no matter what their contribution" - but that too is just a
reaction to a competitive view. If we do nothing, "nature" will have
the situation be competitive.

I suggest that in nature and in human institutions, the overriding
context is coooperation - that is, everything is integrated (rather
than a "goody-goody" point of view) - and within that, specific
events or situations can be seen as competitive.

What will this view buy us? A possibility to invent structures which
allow freedom of expression, freedom of choice and freedom of
relationship - and a greater flowering of complexity in human
affairs. There will always be room for the competitive, the
cooperative, the altrusitic, the ????. I suggest that the beauty of
the marketplace (more like a country market than the world market -
so far at least) is that it continually encourages diversity and
allows a forum where anyone can make offers to the world and those
offers may be the source of continually increasing diversity - which
in turn provide more opportunity for future diversity.

Tom's response to my idea of a marketplace drew an interesting side
benefit to this dialogue. I couldn't tell whether or not he was for
or against the idea and noticed how significant that was to my
initial reading of his comments. Thanks for providing the wonderful
opportunity of a mirror to my thinking processes and for development
of the marketplace idea.

Michael McMaster