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Published: January 23, 2018 (6 years 2 months ago.)
Tags:  Oligarchy · Propaganda · Psyop

The book in...
One sentence:
Nudging people through Libertarian paternalism and choice architecture to make better choices.

Five sentences:
This book is an exploration of understanding and exploiting the choices of people. Anyone that is in a position to offer some kind of choice is thought of as a 'choice architect' and the way the choice is presented is called the 'choice architecture'. Supposedly most people can't make 'good' decisions because they lack the skills or data to make such decisions. Defaults, placement, and language can be used to structure the choice architecture to provide less chance for choosers to make 'bad' choices. While there are many case studies presented to back up these claims, what constitutes a good or bad choice is subjective and the lack of ability to make good choices, whatever good may be, is not examined.

designates my notes. / designates important.


The most important point, that is never discussed, is what is “better”? The book constantly talks about making good, bad, better, or worse choices, but only faintly expands upon what is good or bad. Generally it is taken that what most people would like is good, but that is a fallacy in and of itself. Then you enter the murky ground of trying to maximize the good for as many people as possible. This would lead to at least some people being unhappy. One example given is that a tax on cigarettes is good because most people don’t want to smoke cigarettes and people would love to stop but it is too addicting. Even if you accept this, what about the people that WANT to smoke cigarettes? Should they be punished because most people don’t want to smoke yet can’t exercise self control?

The other questionable claim is that people are unable to make knowledgeable decisions and subsequently make bad choices. The author says that most people are too busy living their lives to be able to educate themselves and make better choices. In some cases this may be true, I wouldn’t expect Joe Average to be able to make complex medical decisions, but when it comes to something like retirement saving everyone should take the time to educate themselves to the point where they can make responsible choices. Not having time because you are “living your life” is bullshit. How many hours do people spend in front of the tube or on Facebook? But they can’t dedicate a few hours a week for a few months to understand something as important as retirement savings? How many people can rattle off celebrity gossip or sports statistics yet choose to never give a second thought to the decisions that actually impact their lives.

This brings me to the last point: why can’t people make “good” decisions in the first place? It seems like an almost learned helplessness is present in most people. You are generally treated as if you should always defer to the professionals and this leads to the inability to think for yourself. I think this is much deeper than proper decision making ability and gets to the heart of our failing education system. A hundred years ago children that would only attend a one-room schoolhouse were seemingly better equipped to make decisions and, although we live in a different world with more data and more choices, the underlying structure of education and decision making have not changed one bit. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric of a trivium method based education allow anyone to tackle any problem, to make any decision. When we allow others to choose for us, through choice architecture or deferring to the professionals, we rob ourselves of what it is to be a cognisant being. This will lead to even less ability to manage decisions and more reliance on professionals, statistics, or the state.

Instead of manipulating people to make statistically better choices, we should be nurturing curiosity, life-long education, and personal growth. If there is an argument to be made for nudging people to make better decisions, does it not follow that instilling the ability to make better decisions (self/continuing education) should also be promoted? If this is the case, should we not tax television viewers and Facebook junkies for the very same reasons we tax cigarettes? Can people get tax breaks for every (nonfiction) book they read?

All in all this is nothing more than statist propaganda. Big Brother knows best, because science and case studies and statistics!

Exceptional Excerpts

“Small interventions and even coincidences, at a key stage, can produce large variations in the outcome."

“The effects of social influences may or may not be deliberately planned by particular people."

“learning to use a student loan recap spreadsheet might be an excellent assignment in a high school math class for seniors."

“As with a 401(k) plan, the average parents know little about their child’s school…"

“In offering supposedly helpful nudges, choice architects may have their own agendas."

Table of Contents

· Introduction

page 3:
page 5:
page 8:
page 9:

· 01: Biases and Blunders

page 19:
page 23:
page 27:
page 36:
page 37:

· 02: Resisting Temptation

page 47:
page 49:

· 03: Following the Herd

page 58:
page 62:
page 63:

· 04: When Do We Need A Nudge?

· 05: Choice Architect

page 100:
 Understand mappings
 Give feedback
 Expect error
 Structure complex choices

· 06: Save More Tomorrow

page 104:
page 105:

· 07: Naive Investing

page 121:

· 08: Credit Markets

page 136:
page 141:

· 09: Privatizing Social Security

page 156:

· 10: Prescription Drugs

· 11: How to Increase Organ Donations

page 175:
page 176:

· 12: Saving the Planet

page 192:

· 13: Improving School Choices

page 199:
page 201:

· 14: Should Patients Be Forced to Buy Lottery Tickets?

· 15: Privatizing Marriage

page 217:
page 218:
page 220:

· 16: A Dozen Nudges

· 17: Objections

page 239:

page 240:
page 241:

· 18: The Read Third Way