A Plague on Both Your Houses

How Left and Right Undermined Moral Motivation in the Swedish School System

  • Johan Wennström


The potential for institutional arrangements such as financial incentives and other market mechanisms to undermine intrinsic, moral motivation among both “producers” and “consumers” of tax-financed welfare services is demonstrated by two new studies (Wennström 2016a; 2016b). These studies show that the promotion of NPM-like ideas by various left-wing and right-wing agents after 1968 led to the erosion of a professional ethos among Swedish teachers, and that an ill-designed school voucher reform in Sweden, implemented under the banner of NPM, has encouraged moral hazard on the part of schools. This essay presents the main findings of these studies and situates them within a broader literature on the relationship between markets and morality, the problems caused by making the logic of the market economy into a universal model for human affairs, and the potential for ideological ecumenism between the left and right.