Stephen L. Carter, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and a professor of law at Yale University, has said in an opinion piece for The Washington Post that one way to get people vaccinated in the United States is if the government pays them $1,000 each.
In the article, Carter wrote that he strongly supports getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as he already got his two shots plus a booster. He said that though he agrees getting a shot is a matter of public urgency, there is a “better way” to urge the 70 to 75 million eligible citizens of the United States to get vaccinated, and it has nothing to do with vaccine mandates by the government or businesses.
He shared in his piece, “People should get paid instead. Get a shot, get a check.”
Carter said that punishment as an instrument of policy is attractive only to those who want others to do what is right. However, although punishment is one of the ways to let people follow, “superior alternatives almost always exist.” In his piece, one example that Carter gave is employers mandated COVID-19 vaccines in exchange for keeping the employees’ jobs. He called it an “inferior solution.” A “superior solution” would be to offer bonuses to encourage employees to get vaccinated, Carter stated.
He pointed out, “Part of this reflects my general preference for positive over negative incentives. A larger part, however, is my concern about the tendency to put coercion to more and more uses. Punishing people for what they do or don’t do should always be a last resort. We’re not there yet.”
Carter also said that people respond to a persuasion of different kinds. If people get persuaded because they will be punished, they may not like this kind of persuasion as “enforcement of even the mildest law can lead to a violent reaction.” However, if people get paid to get vaccinated, it might be a good idea because incentives work, according to him.
Another example in his piece stated, “A correctly designed program paying students to read can increase both grades and test scores. Paying at-risk kids not to commit crimes shows promise in reducing violence.”
His examples are based on a 2018 review of scholarly literature regarding contingency management. The literature talked about providing rewards, often cash, to addicts so that they can stay sober. Further, a 2018 study of cash payments to curb cigarette use found a significant effect even if the smoker could only earn less than $500 in more than seven weeks.
Carter then talked about Ohio’s Vax-a-Million program. This program gave those vaccinated a ticket for a chance to win $1 million in a lottery. This, however, did not affect the number of people wanting to get vaccinated. Biden also encouraged states and cities to offer $100 for every vaccine, and this program also did not work.
However, according to Carter, the amount was too low, which is why there was no significant difference noticed with these programs. Carter opined, “Offer $1,000 apiece, and I suspect we’d reach that number swiftly. The price tag would come out to $35 billion, which used to be a lot of money in Washington, but these days is almost a rounding error. In fact, $35 billion is a mere 1% of the Democratic Party’s $3.5 trillion budget plan — and spending it on vaccinations now will reap trillions in benefits later.”