I came up with “There are no bad people, only bad incentives” as a line for a (sympathetic & badass) antagonist in my t/s kinkfic, and originally I didn’t really believe it – just thought it was a plausible belief for someone to have, expressed pithily – but it’s been percolating in my head for a month or two as I go about my daily life, watching terrible things happen on the news and hearing people criticize bad structures* as if they were brought about by… intentions… and I’ve started quietly believing it. There are bad people, but significant evil seems to always be primarily due to bad setups – biological, social, economical, etc. No. Not ‘primarily due’ – what I mean is, of all the things to twitch to make a situation better, the easiest/most obvious thing is the incentives, not the people.
* I write this directly after reading a facebook post saying “I just paid $400 to take 2 GRE tests. Our nation’s priorities are fucked up.”, to which my immediate thought was “the nation doesn’t have priorities, the nation isn’t an agent, ridiculous prices are what they are because [my brain failed here to produce words, instead presenting a visual jumble/diagram of multiple complex agents in a system interacting in ways that brought about unfortunate results]”.