Monday, December 15, 2008

Nudge (aka Libertarian Paternalism)

Last night I was off at 4:30 instead of 5, and I got to listen to an airing of Cambridge Forum, which I ordinarily don't get to hear. Last night's topic was on the book Nudge, which is about the government gently nudging you to make good decisions for yourself. That is the ultra-ultra-simplified version, but I found it very interesting and it made a lot of sense to me. It was a half-hour lecture by one of the authors of the book and I would recommend the book if you're interested in politics, the economy, psychology, and social science all rolled into one.

Here's the abstract on which the book is based:

The idea of libertarian paternalism might seem to be an oxymoron, but it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice. Often people's preferences are ill-formed, and their choices will inevitably be influenced by default rules, framing effects, and starting points. In these circumstances, a form of paternalism cannot be avoided. Equipped with an understanding of behavioral findings of bounded rationality and bounded self-control, libertarian paternalists should attempt to steer people's choices in welfare-promoting directions without eliminating freedom of choice. It is also possible to show how a libertarian paternalist might select among the possible options and to assess how much choice to offer. Examples are given from many areas, including savings behavior, labor law, and consumer protection. - Cass R. Sunstein via SSRN

An example of this already happening: Americans (being utterly poor at saving - self included) are automatically enrolled in a retirement savings plan upon employment - 401K/403B, unless you choose to opt out. A future example of this would be: Instead having to "opt in" to donate your organs, the default would be organ donation and you would have to "opt out" if you did not want to participate.

Yesterday was a good day. I felt good, I baked well. It was nice. New to me: Linzer Tortes, Joe's pastry cream, candied citrus rind, chocolate chip cookies w/walnuts. Also made: Pies, baguettes.

Thought I found the rad-est school (in Richmond) but I misread the tuition and what I thought was tuition for a year, ended up being tuition for a month. So in the morning I was coffeed-up, checking out rentals on craigslist for El Cerrito, asking my favorite question/answer community about the lifestyle there, checking BART times to the city...What a dork. I've got a school tour this Friday and have an email in to this one just to see if I can swing a deal. It's cheaper to live in the East Bay but it's just that much closer to the Richmond Chevron Refinery. Boo.

And another thing: Man it's dark out.

Also: Still haven't jogged.


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