Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth And Happiness
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 05 March 2009
- Decision Theory: General
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I saw some summaries of ideas in this book and heard that they're popular among the economic advisors to the Obama campaign, so I picked up a copy to take a look.Thaler and Sunstein begin by acknowledging that the species <i>homo economicus</i>, Econs, are common to economists' theories, but their behavior is not that of <i>homo sapiens</i>, Humans. Since people do not always act in precise accordance with game theory, it behooves "choice architects" to take this into account when devising systems to serve Humans.They articulate an eloquent alternative to the "we know what's good for you and one size fits all" approach common to the left and the "every man for himself" approach common to the right. They advocate the level of choice expected of libertarian systems, but with default choices carefully architected to give good default results for people who, for whatever reason, don't do thorough research on maximizing the benefits from their array of opportunities. They also advocate mandates of transparency (so it is easy to get the data on how well you are being served) rather than mandates of performance (which are much more expensive to comply with, and can much more easily go drastically wrong if the proposed incentives turn out to be perverse).Overall, a fine starting point for policy discussions; I look forward to seeing these ideas take root in our government in the near future.
Practical options for improved structural nudges, to make doing the right thing easier.
This is just "improving decisions about..." on a macro level. You won't get any self-help from it, just potential policy ideas to lobby for. I went into the book with the impression that their political views were very similar to my own and that view didn't change. Some really interesting ideas to chew on and maybe work into conversations. And refreshingly low on the ideology and partisanship. No villains screamed about. We need more stuff this mellow. Some chapters seem more thought-out than others. The marriage discussion was practically incoherent, although I did pick up on a rather disturbing endorsement of alimony. And absent-minded ivory tower stereotypes aside, it's hard to believe they genuinely can't imagine what the argument would be against paying for organ donations. The idea of waiving liability rights in exchange for reduced healthcare costs was the most interesting section. The one on public school choice skirted too many of the standard arguments to feel very useful.
Nudges are small, relatively non-intrusive ways that decision makers in government or industry can encourage people to make choices that are better for their health, wealth, or other forms of well-being. The authors explain the concept of "choice architecture" and how it can be used in designing public policy.This book is well written, easy to read and explores issues of personal freedom, paternalism, and the role of the state.
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