As I was reading Ian Ayres' Carrots and Sticks: Unlocking the power of getting things done, I found myself nodding my head at times, admired quite a few tactics mentioned (well-played, Zappos), stunned at the power of procrastination (Elizabeth the law student, as well as making me feel rather uncomfortable, knowing just how capable of procrastination I am), but there are certain things where I felt morally uncomfortable. I wasn't sure how to feel about encouraging kids to study harder with monetary rewards: while it certainly has some effectiveness, it does not feel right to have to bribe children to perform. As broken down in page 35, the concept of commitments, thus disabling choice for adults (aka $5000 cigarette fine), feels less manipulative because I do believe adults have more control of the choice, the decision they make. Bribing a kid with television does seem to be an offer too good to refuse: what if it is used for more sinister results?
I also struggle with Ayres' suggestion that we, as humans, really do have so little self control that we need to place so many restrictions on ourselves to achieve a task. Are we really THAT weak even in just making small adjustments in life? Maybe we really are, and I am being one of those mad people Einstein described that constitute as mad as I expect different results trying the same thing? While I certainly believe in laws and governance (aka not a Libertarian), I also do believe that some examples suggested seem a bit extreme, and borders on infringing on one's free will.
I do however find some of the ideas discussed as effective, and it is clear StickK.com is highly influenced by this model. I signed up to drink less for 5 weeks (no more than 3 times) and while i find the referee to be useful, it is also flawed as I can easily lie if I choose. I set a monetary punishment ($25/week to a charity) but knowing it will go towards a good cause, I also worry that eventually I would just treat it as a payment (law student with a $12000 donation is truly staggering!) But once i saw the anti-charity, I realize that should I decide to not cheat the system, this would be the biggest motivation for me to stick to my plan. I chose an organization that I have a lot of issues with (NRA) and the guilt of potentially giving money to them is enough for me to stick to my plan. SO perhaps for me: carrot and stick + a dash of guilt would be the most effective formula!