What is a Moral Suasion?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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Moral suasion is a strategy that involves using various persuasion techniques to motivate entities to adhere to a specific policy or procedure. The attempts to influence outcomes based on this type of persuasion include an appeal to ethics and morals, often identifying specific actions as being the right thing to do for everyone concerned. While this particular approach to persuasion is often used as a strategy by government authorities to influence the function and business activities of banks and other financial institutions, the concept of moral suasion can be utilized in a number of other situations.

In terms of using moral suasion to motivate adherence to governmental policies, a number of different approaches may be utilized. One approach is to hold private meetings with bank directors and other key officials associated with the institution, utilizing discussion as a means of influencing the directives issued by those officials. In some cases, moral suasion may take the form of more frequent and comprehensive inspections of bank records or other documents that have to do with the overall business operation. At other times, the process may take the form of appealing to the general public, with the appeal being made by a government official who is seen as both an expert and worthy of trust by the citizenry. In its worst forms, moral suasion may come in the form of veiled threats that are worded in a manner that does not directly threaten, but leaves little doubt as to the intent.


Moral suasion is known by many different names around the world. The technique is sometimes called window guidance in parts of Asia. In the United States, this approach has sometimes been referred to as jawboning, based on the fact that moral suasion relies on the use of carefully worded discussions rather than on the implementation of additional laws to bring about the desired result.

While it is possible for moral suasion to be abused, the technique can also be helpful in making sure that financial institutions and other types of organizations are operating within both the limits of the law and the best interests of the population in general. For example, a politician may utilize moral suasion if there is suspicion that a bank or group of banks are considering changes in how they approve mortgages that could have a cumulatively damaging effect on the overall economy. When that is the case, the methods common to jawboning may be invoked as a way to motivate the banks to reconsider the measure, in light of what it could mean for a national economy in general.


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