Book Review – Nudge

This book covers an approach with which I agree : Paternalistic Libertarianism.  Two big words that mean everyone should have the right to make choices for themselves, but that the system should be set-up to subtly encourage choices that we, as the decision framers, believe are in the decision-makers’ best interest and the best interest of the larger population.

I think Libertarian ideals are great, but game theory tells us that when we are left to each fend for ourselves, we do not always end up with an optimal solution that creates the most total utility.  In situations where there is a history of people making choices that are sub-optimal, a paternalistic nudge can be for the individual and overall good.

However, problems start to arise when you think about who should be the framer of these paternalistic decision choices.  Do they have motives beyond the common good?  Do they measure common good in different ways than we do?  While nudging is certainly better than legislating against something (from a Libertarian point of view), it may not match with our own personal definition of “good”.

This book, like so many business books, would have been much better as a long magazine article.  It gets quite repetitive.  I feel that the authors could have traded out some of the endless examples for more space to help potential framers think through how to best approach setting up a nudge.

Though I skimmed it at parts, all in all, I thought it was an interesting read.  What I learned will hopefully inform my approach next time I am faced with framing a decision for others.

Please share if you have ever experienced or set-up a nudge and what you felt about the experience.

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