Reward and Punishment in the US
October 6, 2011 5:39 PM   Subscribe

What are some good (current) examples of reward and punishment in the United States? Please give me any websites, magazines or books I might be able to source for an essay.

I am taking Ethics in Philosophy this semester and the only challenge of this essay are to discover good examples of reward and punishment in the US. The only thing that really pops into my mind is the Casey Anthony case. Any other suggestions? Please feel free to point me in the way of more recent magazine or newspaper articles, or books on the subject. Obviously they don't have to be philosophy related, but if you have any good sources in that vicinity, please feel free to let me know. Thank you!
posted by camylanded to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total)
What about rewards and punishment in an educational context? Alfie Kohn is a source for that, though skewed in one way.

Punished By Rewards is his big treatise on eliminating traditional rewards like candy, gold stars, etc in classrooms.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2011

Seems to me that it's worth looking for examples in US and state tax codes -- they're full of rewards (e.g., credits for buying a home for the first time, or for education, or for electric vehicles, etc.) and punishments (penalties for early 401K/IRA withdrawal come to mind). They're all intended to encourage or discourage various behaviors. Might not seem that exciting at first, but I suspect there are some interesting narratives woven into that dry language.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 6:43 PM on October 6, 2011

Jeremy Bentham's essay on the panopticon is a good place to start, as well as Foucalt's Discipline and Punish. These are both classic works on the punish side, but once you know of the panopticon, you can't help feeling like its observing you always.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:54 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you're just looking for actual cases, but if you're up for hypothetical arguments, the recent book In Defense of Flogging would probably be relevant. (Full disclosure: I know the author's wife. I haven't read the book myself.)
posted by neroli at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2011

If the assignment encompasses punishment in America, then the fact that America has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world is sure-fire essay fodder.

An American is seven times more likely to be in prison than a Western European. A third of Black American men are in prison, parole, or probation.

Most Americans are unaware of these stats, and they are in the starkest possible contrast with America's self-image as "The Land of the Free." You almost can't not write about it.
posted by Dimpy at 7:44 PM on October 6, 2011

How about researching some aspect of NCAA sanctions? Especially self-sanctions.
I found some interesting citations at

"Incentives for post-apprehension self-punishment: University self-sanctions for NCAA infractions" by Winfree J.A.; Mccluskey J.J.
Publication: International Journal of Sport Finance, v3 n4 (2008 11 01): 196-209

"NCAA Penalizes Fewer Teams than Expected" by Libby Sander
Publication: Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n36 pA26 May 2008
Web site:

"NCAA Sanctions: Assigning Blame Where It Belongs" by M A Weston
Publication: BOSTON COLLEGE LAW REVIEW, 52, no. 2, (2011): 551-584


The use of international economic sanctions to effect change. Sanctions against dictators. Sanctions against South Africa. Trade sanctions against Cuba.


Something on the Kyoto Protocol and emissions trading.
posted by calgirl at 9:03 PM on October 6, 2011

Freakonomics, the book and blog, focus strongly on incentives and resulting behavior. Browsing their topics may give you some ideas.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 12:18 AM on October 7, 2011

« Older Where to go on an accessible road trip in the...   |   What wireless headphones should I get? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.