We the people

By Emanuel Derman
August 26, 2011

I have been reading a column in the Sydney Morning Herald by their Economics Writer Jessica Irvine. She writes:

Kahneman says we can use this knowledge about our irrationality to influence public policy. We should make it so people have to opt out of things we find socially desirable and opt in to things we think undesirable. Innate inertia will do the rest. (My italics).

I don’t know whether she is quoting Kahneman in the second sentence, or quoting herself, but when I read it I was struck by the glib use of we and people. Who exactly are the “we” that will determine what is socially desirable and who are the “people” that will do the opting?

 

 

9 comments

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Oh I think you know ;) Anyways Nudge by Thaler & Sunstein is a great book on, among others, this subject.

http://www.amazon.com/Nudge-Improving-De cisions-Health-Happiness/dp/014311526X/r ef=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314338160&sr=8-1

Posted by Bootvis | Report as abusive

Ten percent of the people of the world know the truth of existence, and those elites opt to keep 85 percent of the world in ignorance and under their controlling thumb. The remaining percentage are those who know the truth and are determined to enlighten the rest. (Believe of the Five Percent Nation)

So – “we” are the 10%, “people” are the 85%.

I am one of the 5%, and you are almost there as well :-)

Posted by Torsten1966 | Report as abusive

Scary echoes of Ethical State….

Posted by RedItalian | Report as abusive

EconTalk’s Russ Roberts explores that exact point in this hour long interview with ‘Nudge’ author, Richard Thaler. Highly recommended. http://www.econtalk.org/archives/_featur ing/richard_thaler/

Posted by JohnHumphrey | Report as abusive

I’m taking a wild guess, but We = Me and those who agree with me.

Posted by FascistNation | Report as abusive

Maybe I should read “Nudge”. I haven’t. I glanced at the reviews and my prejudiced prejudgement (WITHOUT having read it) is that I dislike the idea. I don’t like liberal paternalism, though I might have when I was younger. It feels like elitist manipulation to me. Remind me of this sleep-teaching of the betas in Brave New World:

“Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.”

That said, I understand that someone is nudging and pushing you all the time. That’s not what I voted for though.

Posted by EmanuelDerman | Report as abusive

I meant to add: it’s remarkable that behavioral economics has migrated, in some people’s views, from a field of research into a suggested method of controlling people.

Posted by EmanuelDerman | Report as abusive

Nonsense! This isn’t about this group of people “controlling” that group of people. It’s about us exerting our will over our actions. As someone almost said, we contain multitudes.

For example, I wish I could eat a little bit less every day and thereby lose 15 pounds over the next year. If you gave me a strategy that would allow me to do that without having to constantly exert willpower to keep from impulsively snacking before dinner, I’d adopt it. Because the part of me that wants what’s good in the long term is not the same part of me that causes my hand to reach for the bag of nuts on the counter.

Same deal with automatic investment in 401K’s. We want to have saved for retirement when we get old. But we also want that flat panel TV now and the $1000 is burning a hole in our pocket because it didn’t get put away out of sight. It’s not that complicated. Ms. Irvine is just taking a verbal shortcut instead of spelling it out.

Posted by FosterBoondog | Report as abusive

The intelligentsia.

Posted by stat_arb | Report as abusive