Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cass Sunstein: Our Nudge in Chief

Sunstein’s current overarching project is the opposite of revolutionary. He seeks to tame our impulses and intuitions, to counteract the irrational and emotional errors we often make, in order to help us reach better decisions through deliberation and rational thinking. (Of course, to a fiery talk-show host, that may be precisely what makes him so dangerous.)...The goal of much of Sunstein’s work is to identify ways to counteract the impulsive influences...when they lead us astray. If people are inclined to overlook the consequences of certain behaviors, for example, he suggests that the government require warnings and disclosures—such as fuel-economy labels on cars and calorie information on restaurant menus. Because irrational tendencies to focus on the short term and to procrastinate dissuade us from saving for retirement, Sunstein advocates default rules, such as automatically enrolling workers in retirement plans, leaving them the choice of opting out. He calls such measures “soft paternalism,” to be distinguished from the “hard paternalism” of flat bans or mandates, which do not leave people free to decide for themselves. more

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