Incentives have effects. They just may not be effective for the desired outcome.

Starting in 2004, each province in China received from the central government a set of “death ceilings” that, if exceeded,  would impede government officials’ promotions. A result:

The paper by Fisman and Wang asserts, with strong evidence, that the officials just reported manipulated numbers (alternative facts). They digested quarterly reports for 7 categories in 31 provinces over 8 years. The analysis and results would not have been clear without graphs like this one.

The authors point out that the program may have actually been effective–if the central government objective was really dissent minimization. They would not be the only government with that as a priority.