Friday, December 18, 2015

A skeptical look at "nudges" in the Atlantic (which reminds me of Loewenstein's 2010 op-ed in the NY Times)

In the Atlantic, a recent complaint about the tendency to over-promote the efficacy of"nudges" as inexpensive solutions to big problems:

Why 'Nudges' Hardly Help by Frank Pasquale

"...the nudge is really a fudge—a way of avoiding the thornier issues at stake..."

I think the promises and perils of relying on nudges as primary tools of policy were set forth elegantly in a 2010 NY Times op-ed by George Loewenstein and Peter Ubel, who spoke of the relative magnitudes of the effects of nudges compared to e.g. changes in price:

Economics Behaving Badly

 "Behavioral economics should complement, not substitute for, more substantive economic interventions. If traditional economics suggests that we should have a larger price difference between sugar-free and sugared drinks, behavioral economics could suggest whether consumers would respond better to a subsidy on unsweetened drinks or a tax on sugary drinks."

Loewenstein, of course, is one of the founding giants of behavioral economics.

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