Why Nudge?: The Politics Of Libertarian Paternalism

Paperback | April 28, 2015

byCass R. Sunstein

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The bestselling author of Simpler offers a powerful, provocative, and convincing argument for protecting people from their own mistakes

Based on a series of pathbreaking lectures given at Yale University in 2012, this powerful, thought-provoking work by national best-selling author Cass R. Sunstein combines legal theory with behavioral economics to make a fresh argument about the legitimate scope of government, bearing on obesity, smoking, distracted driving, health care, food safety, and other highly volatile, high-profile public issues. Behavioral economists have established that people often make decisions that run counter to their best interests—producing what Sunstein describes as “behavioral market failures.” Sometimes we disregard the long term; sometimes we are unrealistically optimistic; sometimes we do not see what is in front of us. With this evidence in mind, Sunstein argues for a new form of paternalism, one that protects people against serious errors but also recognizes the risk of government overreaching and usually preserves freedom of choice.

Against those who reject paternalism of any kind, Sunstein shows that “choice architecture”—government-imposed structures that affect our choices—is inevitable, and hence that a form of paternalism cannot be avoided. He urges that there are profoundly moral reasons to ensure that choice architecture is helpful rather than harmful—and that it makes people’s lives better and longer.

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The bestselling author of Simpler offers a powerful, provocative, and convincing argument for protecting people from their own mistakes Based on a series of pathbreaking lectures given at Yale University in 2012, this powerful, thought-provoking work by national best-selling author Cass R. Sunstein combines legal theory with behavioral...

Cass R. Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University, is the author of several books, including Simpler: The Future of Government and, with coauthor Richard H. Thaler, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:April 28, 2015Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300212690

ISBN - 13:9780300212693

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Can there be anything libertarian about paternalism? Isn’t “libertarian paternalism” a contradiction in terms?   Libertarian paternalism is no contradiction. All over the world, people are recognizing that we can adopt approaches that preserve freedom of choice, but that also steer people in helpful directions. Consider a GPS: you can ignore it if you want, but it gives you a route that is often pretty sensible. So, too, a restaurant might highlight healthful meals and put them in a special part of the menu. If so, it is engaging in libertarian paternalism. An employer might automatically enroll you in a savings plan or a health care plan—but allow you to opt out. That’s a form of libertarian paternalism. The government might give people certain warnings, designed to reduce the risks associated with smoking or texting while driving. If the goal is to steer people in directions that will make their lives longer, then the government is engaged in libertarian paternalism. There’s no contradiction in combining freedom of choice with a little steering. And because it's a form of “choice architecture,” impossible to avoid, steering is pretty much inevitable.   Should people be allowed to make mistakes? Are there times when they shouldn’t?   Sure, people should be allowed to make mistakes. We learn from what we do, even if our decisions don’t turn out so well. If our choices don’t affect anyone else, freedom of choice is a good place to start. But it isn’t a good place to end. If people really are making catastrophic decisions, and if the benefits of preventing the catastrophe clearly outweigh the costs, we might be able to overcome the presumption in favor of freedom of choice.