Suhrob's Reviews > Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge by Richard H. Thaler
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's review
Sep 09, 12

This is a good choice to read after Kahneman's "Thinking, fast and slow" (in fact Kahneman approves of "Nudge" at the end of his book). The book is a large list of policies in all venues of political and personal life which try to correct (and/or utilize) inherent humant cognitive biases to improve our well being while retaining the principle of free choice*.

The last part of the book then contains pre-emptive responses to the main (mostly libertarian) criticism of this approach. I think this apology is handled rather well and is not trying to dodge the hard questions.

The newer edition comes with an appendix of further "nudges" submitted by readers of the first printing of the book. This part demonstrates one of the (unaddressed) pitfalls - many I consider pretty much useless. While certainly improving the aspects they claim to, often they sound like drops in the ocean with a lot of self-congratulation.

Ultimately, there is of course a variation on the ever-present problem when dealing policies and their enforcement: "who watches (and nudges) the nudgers?". This is unavoidable, but so is choice architecture. Therefore "Nudge" is an essential reading and crucial to take into account by policy creators.

* Allow me a little gloating: I just love the chutzpah Thaler and Sunstein show by calling their approach "libertarian paternalism". Yes, we bite the bullet - we are 100% paternalist. But then again we keep the choices open, so we are entitled to assimilate the moniker of our main critics too, thus creating the non-oxymoron "libertarian paternalism".

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