A Swift Kick or a Gentle Nudge?September 8, 2009 Leave a comment
It is difficult on this Labor Day 2009 not to worry and fret about our collective ability in this country to do what is best, even in our own best interest. The two major policy debates of the day – health care and unemployment – came together this weekend in a heap of statistics, misinformation and just plain rage that leaves me, like so many, wondering: how will we move in the right direction? What is right action?
Heartbreaking stories of financial ruin and despair from job loss and crushing unemployment caused by the recession or untreated illness and bankruptcy from the effects of a completely broken health care system. And, at root of both issues we find the profit motive and really bad policy choices over the last two decades.
And then, on Saturday what should arrive in the mail but a book that I had ordered; Nudge – Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. This book is based on the emerging science of choice which raises serious questions about the rationality of many judgments and decisions that people make. The authors give us a new way to think about this fact and explain just how it is that we can be “nudged” not coerced, forced, punished or rewarded but nudged into doing the right thing and that we are all the time!
They argue that if government “replaced requirements and bans with incentives and nudges” we would be experiencing far better governance. There are enormously important debates across so many fundamental issues in our country all happening simultaneously that we can only hope that a few nudges in the right direction might help get us to where we need to go and to be our better selves.