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Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism (The Storrs Lectures Series) Hardcover – March 25, 2014

3.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A provocative challenge to the fixed mindsets of left and right alike."—Kirkus Reviews
(Kirkus Reviews)

From the Author

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.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Storrs Lectures Series
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300197861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300197860
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
"Why Nudge" has a shaky foundation that, like some Hollywood movie, requires suspension of disbelief to proceed. Once you get over that hump, the book makes great sense. The hump is John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle, which says that if something doesn't harm anyone else, you should be left alone to deal with it as you please. If no harm occurs, government should not be regulating or managing it. But it is easy to show, particularly in this litigious, liability-obsessed society, that virtually any action in a highly varied population has repercussions that harm others, if only through the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Every traffic jam costs money in lost productivity (travel time), maintenance and pollution. Any sort of law requires enforcement (detectives, prosecutors, offices, jails ...). If you water your lawn, there's less water available to drink. It is easy to rationalize pretty much any action as harming someone else. Far from a zero-sum game, harm spreads geometrically, like the proverbial butterfly batting its wings in Brazil, causing a typhoon in Japan. But since this entire lecture series is built on the premise that paternalistic nudging of behavior can direct actions away from harm, you kinda hafta go with it. Sunstein finally dismisses this concern half way through the book, because he must. Ironically, it is Sunstein's stated purpose to "cast doubt" on Mill's Harm Principle.

His main concern is whether nudges are paternalistic. He categorizes paternalism in four neat boxes; it is either soft or hard, means or ends. They are self explanatory (well named) and really easy to visualize. The least objectionable road to success is soft and means, in which gentle nudges like ratings, warnings and data help people decide for themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You could probably just as well read the book review of it and get enough gist. Light reading and goes over familiar ideas.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love the term "Nudge" because it is a perfect way to describe the role a government can play in helping people make better decisions without limiting their freedom. This book makes a strong case for active nudging by laying out the reasons why people often make bad decisions and the instances where a gentle nudge would be helpful. A must read for those who like to debate the role of government in a modern society.
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Format: Hardcover
Sunstein's intial premise seems harmless, almost benevolent. But underneath the surface of his philanthropy is a totalitarian nightmare. I doubt Sunstein would like to be "nudged" with a 5.56 round, but he asks that we welcome it. Sunstein would start with sweet little suggestions, that end up as government regulations enforced at the point of a gun. Of course, detached as he is from reality, it never occurs to Sunstein that government is one of the obvious and major reasons people make irrational decisions, that are actually quite reasonable and rational from an individual perspective.

Thanks to Sunstein and his ilk, this is truly "The Golden Age of the Anti-Intellectual." Government-sponsored propaganda has been refined and perfected to a point that would have made the Bolsheviks and Nazis marvel. Never in history have so many bad, unworkable ideas been so cleverly packaged and presented so as to be accepted by so many. The key to acceptance of [il]Liberal ideas is manipulation of emotions and promises of goods and services.

As long as they receive government benefits and hand-outs, most citizens will not look behind the "wizard's curtain." Nevertheless, modern U.S. Government is unlike any before. Citizens can observe that government is now nothing more than an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. A broad tax base of new taxpayers is needed every year just to pay basic government expenses. Yet, each year, the tax base shrinks (population of taxpayers decreases) and government expenses rise. In the face of this disaster, has government made an all-out effort to cut expenses? Of course not. Government is raising taxes to dangerous and debilitating levels, borrowing huge amounts of money from foreigners, and INCREASING EXPENSES.
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