What Is Moral Suasion?


Organizations and governments use a variety of tactics to get people to behave a certain way. One common tactic is moral suasion, an appeal to people's moral sensibilities. Although often used in economics, moral suasion involves convincing people to do something because it is for the best rather than for material gain or fear of noncompliance.

Historical and Modern Examples

  • One of the most significant uses of moral suasion in history involves slavery in the U.S. Abolitionists denounced slavery as sinful and immoral. Advertising often relies on moral suasion, especially public service announcements such as the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign, anti-smoking ads and the Smokey Bear crusade against forest fires. The Federal Reserve chairman may suggest banks institute policies rather than making such changes required, relying on the organizations to do the "right thing." Concepts such as raising the federal minimum wage and funding social programs typically rely on moral suasion, attempting to persuade people to take care of each other. In general, moral suasion is a successful tactic when the costs do not outweigh the benefits and the expected practice is not already entrenched in the populace.


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