Thursday, February 12, 2009

Too much monkey business

Over on Freakonomics, people have discovered the dark side of the Nudge. More companies are putting extra charges as a must decline option instead of a must accept option for online transactions. The poster, Ian Ayers, while decrying these moves writes:

"In their best-selling book Nudge, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler show that default setting can be a powerful force for the social good.”

So I went all Don Boudreaux on him and wrote him a letter/comment, reproduced below:

Ian: what is the “social good”? Is there a representative agent? Or do you believe somehow that Sunstein and Thaler have been gifted by the gods so that they can make valid interpersonal welfare judgements? Nudge is about getting people to do what you want. Calling it “Social good” is like putting lipstick on the proverbial pig.

If you like it, it’s social good. If you don’t like it, it’s a disturbing evil trend. Give me a break.

hat tip to PR.


Anonymous said...

lol, "went all Don Boudreaux on him"

Anonymous said...

I agree with your sentiment. Dan Ariely makes the same kind of argument for making kidney donations opt-out rather than opt-in. When the government uses opt-out (as opposed to opt in) for say...kidney donations, it's all for the social good! But, what's interesting is that there is a general condemnation among nudgers for private companies performing the same behavior if it is not for the "social good."

Anonymous said...

Now that's hypocrisy we can all agree on!