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Cass Sunstein Confirmed:

Cass Sunstein's nomination to be head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has been approved by the Senate in a 57-40 vote. Sunstein is one of the nation's leading scholars on regulatory issues, and there is no question that he is well-qualified for the job. At the same time, I also think that Sunstein is wrong about a great many important issues, especially in the field of constitutional law.

That said, I believe that the conservative opponents of Sunstein's confirmation are missing the fact that most of his really controversial views have little connection to the office he was nominated for. On the regulatory issues covered by OIRA, Sunstein is actually less statist and relatively more sympathetic to free market approaches than are most other liberal Democrats. For example, in his book Nudge, Sunstein urges policies that are less coercive and paternalistic than those promoted by the existing regulatory state. Sunstein also is aware of the serious public choice problems with regulation, which he has written about in several publications. Obviously, he is still far more supportive of regulation than I am. But the relevant comparison from a libertarian point of view is that between Sunstein and anyone else likely to be appointed to the same position by Obama.

It's also worth pointing out that Sunstein's nomination has been attacked by pro-regulatory groups on the left, and that socialist Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders was among those who voted against confirmation (as did the strongly anti-free market Virgina Senator James Webb). In my view, Sunstein's left-wing opponents had a better grasp of the true significance of his nomination than his conservative ones.

neurodoc:
Too bad his wife, Samantha Powers, didn't have to be voted on. (Slightly OT, but couldn't resist.)
9.10.2009 6:02pm
Mark N. (www):
Here's the roll call vote, for those interested. By parties, Democrats were 51-6 in favor (counting Sanders as a D), while Republicans were 34-6 against.

Apart from Sanders, I suspect there weren't actually any no votes from the left, though. It's possible Webb voted against Sunstein due to an opposition to markets, as you imply, but I think it much more likely that he voted no purely to bolster his cultural pro-gun credentials. The same seems likely for Begich, Lincoln, Nelson, and Pryor, all Democrats who make a pro-gun platform a central part of their persona.
9.10.2009 6:20pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Constitution, constishmooshun- the guy thinks animals should be able to sue people.

Puh-leez.
9.10.2009 6:48pm
Oren:
Glenn, are you implying that the Constitution forbids legislatures from implementing animal rights legislation?

I'm not particularly pro animal rights, but this seems well within the competence of the States to legislate under their general police powers.
9.10.2009 6:50pm
tvk:
A minor and friendly amendment: "the relevant comparison from a libertarian point of view is that between Sunstein and anyone else likely to be appointed to the same position by Obama, and leaving the office vacant."
9.10.2009 6:57pm
TexasFred (mail) (www):
The biggest moonbat to date... Is there not one sane person in the Obama Debacle?
9.10.2009 7:02pm
PabloF:
I wonder to what extent the Republicans' votes were intended as a shot across the bow vis-a-vis a Sunstein nomination to some other governmental position.
9.10.2009 7:09pm
Mac (mail):
Am I going to be sued by the parents of the steer who provided the steak that is on my plate?


Actually, I have a dog who is an insufferable snob and who thinks she owns us. We are likely to be sued by her for the steak on our plates!

So much for a science based agenda. As I understand it, he would prohibit animals from being used in medical research.


Somehow, I can't drum up much of a feeling that all is well with the world with this loon in power. If this is good because anyone else Obama picks would be even worse, that is scant praise and a true damnation of Obama's personnel policies.
9.10.2009 7:11pm
Blargh:
According to Wikipedia at least, Sunstein's suggestions re: standing for animals was not advocacy but an explanation of possible sources of animal rights.

On another note, is there any dumber pejorative than "moonbat"? Insults don't make sense if nobody understands the word except the dregs at freerepublic. For the sake of equivalency, I'll note that "rethuglican" and the like are just also surefire markers that the speaker is a dolt.
9.10.2009 7:39pm
SuperSkeptic:
Let this be the test of how a statist "libertarian" will act in power. "Fine, worth a shot" - is this not your point?

If so, I remain skeptical, but I'm down for a test-run.
9.10.2009 7:39pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Like Ilya, I think Sunstein is immeasurably better than anybody else Obama was likely to nominate to OIRA.

That is not, however, an endorsement of Sunstein, who I regard as a statist turd only slightly less fragrant than Jack Balkin. I think Ilya is far, far too kind in his assessment of Nudge, which proceeded from the flatly idiotic premise that elites can objectively assess what's best for people, and moved on from there to argue for coating authoritarianism in the chocolate of "choice architecture" to make it go down smoother.
9.10.2009 7:43pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Animal or corporation, which is more like a person?

Discuss.
9.10.2009 8:34pm
ArthurKirkland:
Sunstein favors authoritarianism? Open-ended detention? Warrantless surveillance? Preventive detention using pretextual warrants based on false affidavits? Micromanaging adults' sex lives? Imprisoning people for marijuana use? Sneak-and-peek searches? Seemingly limitless executive power, coupled with secrecy?

If this is true, Obama has made a disappointing choice, adn those who accuse him of 'more of the same' have a point.
9.10.2009 8:35pm
Shane:
Intermeddler,

Perhaps if you frame Nudge in that sense. I read it as having the premise that people's brains tend to suffer from systematic flaws, that can be known by demonstrated by data, and that systems should be designed rationally with people's irrationality in mind. Besides, much of the book's thesis concerns how there is no 'null' case, and that there must be SOME form of choice architecture.

To draw from the example in the opening of the book - once you find out that in a school cafeteria, children are likely to reach for food at eye level regardless of what kind of food it is, what do you put on the shelf that stands at eye level? The healthiest food? The most profitable food? Allow the suppliers to bid on premium placement? Random lottery? Once you know that the bias exists, you will have to make a choice on what to do with that information.

You may, of course, argue that we don't know for certain which foods are healthier than which. In fact, what is healthiest for one child is probably not healthiest for another child (imagine 2 children, each with different nutrient deficiencies). However, that doesn't change the fact that we can approach policymaking (shelf placement in this case) with some kind of utilitarian statistical calculus. If I'm 80% confident that carrots are healthier than french fries for 90% of the children in the school, then it will be better for more people if carrots (and not fries) are placed on the eye-level shelf.

It isn't a matter of "elites" knowing what's best for people. It's a matter of policymakers taking the psychology of choice into consideration when making policy. After all, policymakers will make policy regardless.
9.10.2009 8:48pm
tvk:
Shane, that doesn't work. So-called "libertarian paternalism" is an oxymoron. Say we know that people will reach for eye-level food regardless of what the food is. The question is who then makes the decision on what food to place. If you allow the cafeteria owner to make the decision, he will place the most profitable food. If you allow a health fanatic paternalist to make the decision, he will place the healthiest food. Saying that consumers are stupid and irrational allows you to exploit them. It doesn't say how you should exploit them. And Sunstein's implicit argument that we should direct consumers to the good, the great and the wonderful assumes that someone (i.e. him and fellow liberal elites) know what the good the great and the wonderful really is. And then we just have to trick and manipulate stupid consumers to get there. Libertarian paternalism is just replacing the iron fist of direct regulation with "nudging," also know as manipulation and trickery.
9.10.2009 9:06pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
That is not, however, an endorsement of Sunstein, who I regard as a statist turd only slightly less fragrant than Jack Balkin. I think Ilya is far, far too kind in his assessment of Nudge, which proceeded from the flatly idiotic premise that elites can objectively assess what's best for people, and moved on from there to argue for coating authoritarianism in the chocolate of "choice architecture" to make it go down smoother.
But all liberals hold that premise. Sunstein is one of the least likely to engage in coercion based on that premise.
9.10.2009 9:31pm
ArthurKirkland:
I'm all for eliminating reason and judgment from such decisions. How about a randomly generated array of items ranging from carrots to soda, baked fish to deep-fried Twinkies, salads to lardsicles?
9.10.2009 9:40pm
byomtov (mail):
Say we know that people will reach for eye-level food regardless of what the food is. The question is who then makes the decision on what food to place. If you allow the cafeteria owner to make the decision, he will place the most profitable food. If you allow a health fanatic paternalist to make the decision, he will place the healthiest food. Saying that consumers are stupid and irrational allows you to exploit them.

But that's the point. You yourself concede that they are irrational - they reach for the eye-level food. Someone has to decide what is at eye-level. The only choice we have is who is to make that decision - twinkie sellers or those with some reasonable, albeit imperfect, notion of what foods are healthy.
9.10.2009 9:47pm
Oren:

which proceeded from the flatly idiotic premise that elites can objectively assess what's best for people,

No, I think he proceeds from the assumption that people are pretty shitty at making decisions and elites are pretty shitty at making decisions but there are some ways to combine them to produce, on the whole, a slightly less shitty decision-making process.
9.10.2009 9:54pm
Ricardo (mail):
I think Ilya is far, far too kind in his assessment of Nudge, which proceeded from the flatly idiotic premise that elites can objectively assess what's best for people, and moved on from there to argue for coating authoritarianism in the chocolate of "choice architecture" to make it go down smoother.

Did you read the entire book? He devotes one chapter to advocating school vouchers, another to allowing freedom of contract in marriage (something that won't go down well with conservatives but will with libertarians) and yet another to allowing patients to sign contracts with their doctors forfeiting their rights to sue for medical malpractice. His position on these issues is pretty much libertarian full-stop, not "libertarian paternalist."

Regarding the first half of the book, do you have empirical evidence to dispute the claims they make about how people make choices? For instance, there is the evidence that if presented with two mutual funds for investment, people will tend to split their money between the two regardless of what those funds are. The list of choices you provide people therefore weighs very heavily on what people actually invest in. Do you dispute that investment professionals have a better idea of how to achieve a diversified investment portfolio than the average person?
9.10.2009 10:14pm
Angus:
I can't remember Democrats filibustering any of Bush's executive branch nominees. This seems to be a case of Republicans just taking reflexive opposition to new extremes.
9.10.2009 10:22pm
neurodoc:
Ricardo: Do you dispute that investment professionals have a better idea of how to achieve a diversified investment portfolio than the average person?
How does that notion of the superiority of investment professionals comport with the track record of stock portfolios actively managed by professionals (mutual funds) as against index funds with low fees (e.g., Vanguard's S&P 500 fund)?
9.10.2009 11:04pm
Blargh:
Don't bother defending Nudge. You can explain what default rules are until you're blue in the face and it won't matter, the cretins will still yell about "paternalism" without explaining why for instance they prefer the paternalism of the twinkie seller to the health fanatic. As if we don't know anything about healthy foods. Tvk in particular - are you arguing that "elites" or anyone else for that matter can't determine which foods are healthy? Surely you aren't that dense.
9.10.2009 11:09pm
Blargh:
To be more specific - why is placing twinkies at eye level preferable to placing healthier foods at eye level, given that (at least in the school context) someone has to make that decision? Why should "consumers" - children in this context - be exploited in favor of junk food instead of healthier food?
9.10.2009 11:12pm
Ricardo (mail):
How does that notion of the superiority of investment professionals comport with the track record of stock portfolios actively managed by professionals (mutual funds) as against index funds with low fees (e.g., Vanguard's S&P 500 fund)?

Neurodoc, as I explained, investment professionals "have a better idea of how to achieve a diversified investment portfolio than the average person." I didn't say anything about active management versus passive management. It was about professional management versus no management. Commenters on this blog may have trouble understanding that many ordinary people really do need to be actively persuaded by a professional not to invest their entire life savings in Google stock or in T-bills.

Again, my point was extremely simple. Suppose you present an ordinary investor with the following options:

A. S&P 500 index fund
B. 50/50 bond and stock index fund

Many people will allocate half of their money to A and half to B. If you change option B to a pure bond fund, many of those same people will still allocate half their money to A and half to B. No investment professional would make this mistake but the evidence (as recounted in Nudge based on experimental and quasi-experimental settings) is that most ordinary people simply do not understand portfolio diversification. The same person will achieve either a 75% equity/25% bond mix or a 50% equity/50% bond mix based purely on the choices they are presented.

Instead of looking at the constituents of each fund and deciding what portfolio is right for them, most people just follow a simple rule of thumb of splitting their money equally among the options. This strategy can be disastrous depending on what options are presented.
9.10.2009 11:51pm
second history:
I can't remember Democrats filibustering any of Bush's executive branch nominees.

Fourteen Bush executive nomimations were filibustered:

Congress, Year, Name, Position, Cloture Invoked/Withdrawn, Outcome

107th, 2002 Richard H. Carmona Surgeon General invoked confirmed

108th, 2003 Michael O. Leavitt Admin. EPA withdrawn confirmed

108th, 2003 Thomas C. Dorr Undersecy. of Agriculture for Rural Development and Board Member, Commodity Credit Corporation rejected no final vote

109th, 2005 Thomas C. Dorr Undersecy of Agriculture for Rural Development withdrawn confirmed

109th, 2005 John R. Bolton U.N. Representative rejected no final vote

109th, 2005 Stephen L. Johnson EPA Admin.invoked confirmed

109th, 2005 Robert J. Portman U.S. Trade Rep. vitiated confirmed

109th, 2006 Gordon England Deputy Secretary of
Defense withdrawn confirmed

109th, 2006 Eric S. Edelman Under Secy. of Defense
for Policy withdrawn confirmed

109th, 2006 Benjamin A. Powell General Counsel, Office of
the Director of National Intelligence withdrawn confirmed

109th, 2006 Richard Stickler Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Mine Safety and Health withdrawn no final vote

109th, 2006 Dorrance Smith Assistant Secretary of
Defense withdrawn confirmed

109th, 2006 Andrew von Eschenbach FDA Commissioner invoked confirmed

109th, 2006 Dirk Kempthorne Secy. Interior invoked confirmed

Source: Cloture Attempts on Nominations, CRS Report RL32878, March 30, 2009, Table 4.
9.10.2009 11:56pm
Off Kilter (mail):
"the cretins will still yell about "paternalism" without explaining why for instance they prefer the paternalism of the twinkie seller to the health fanatic"

This completely misses the point. The real question is whether this decision making should be decentalized or centralized. Should the eye-level foods be Twinkies in one store, "high end appetizers" in another, "nachos" in a third, etc., or should it be "raw carrots" in EVERY store, by legal mandate?
9.10.2009 11:58pm
Ricardo (mail):
This completely misses the point. The real question is whether this decision making should be decentalized or centralized. Should the eye-level foods be Twinkies in one store, "high end appetizers" in another, "nachos" in a third, etc., or should it be "raw carrots" in EVERY store, by legal mandate?

Can you point out where exactly Cass Sunstein says he favors a legal mandate to micromanage the placement of food products within stores throughout the U.S.? He and Richard Thaler have said quite clearly that the empirical evidence shows the relative placement of products affects people's consumption and that an in-house cafeteria or convenience store at a company or government office should consider this if they want to promote individual health.

I haven't seen where they say there should be a centralized legal mandate but if they did in fact say this somewhere, please provide a reference.
9.11.2009 1:10am
pot meet kettle (mail):

I haven't seen where they say there should be a centralized legal mandate but if they did in fact say this somewhere, please provide a reference.


Sorry. I believe all references to a centralized system to manage the placement of pigs-in-blankets in the Poughkeepsie corner store were only placed at eye-level of tvk, and not the rest of us unwashed masses.
9.11.2009 1:17am
Oren:
Oh, and schools might want to exercise central control over the placement of items in their own cafeterias. Seems reasonable enough.
9.11.2009 1:20am
neurodoc:
Ricardo, I take your point about the advisibility of diversification in terms of asset classes and portfolio balancing, as opposed to putting all of one's eggs in one basket. And it would be foolish to argue that many "ordinary investors" (anybody who has more than nominal savings or gives thought to protecting and growing what they have?) don't do inadvisable things with their money in hopes of coming out ahead. Indeed, some think that whenever there is a particularly strong consensus among "ordinary investors," that may be the best time to be a contrarian. I just think we ought to note that many "ordinary financial professionals" didn't do so well by their clients when the soundness of their advice was put to the test.
9.11.2009 1:59am
Ricardo (mail):
Neurodoc, we don't seem to disagree on the evidence then. Certainly it's the case that self-serving investment advisers or portfolio managers don't do well by their clients. That's quite different from saying that there is not some objective standard by which we can measure the investment decision process.

There was concern above about "elites" making decisions for everyone else. The elite consensus on investing is very clear, though: ordinary investors should have a mix of no-load, low fee international equity index funds and -- depending on their cash flow needs, tolerance for risk and marginal tax rates -- bond funds of some kind or another. The point of Nudge is not to take these decisions away from people but simply to ensure that people don't get taken to the cleaners or make foolish decisions based on not fully understanding the decisions they are supposed to make.
9.11.2009 2:41am
LTR:
This pretty much means Sunstein won't be getting any higher profile gigs that require Senate confirmation soon. Or ever.
9.11.2009 2:48am
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
I agree with Ricardo that much criticism of the book Nudge is misplaced. The problem I see is that we aren't ruled by strictly computing utilitarians, but instead by real-life, breathing human beings, with their attendant motivations and biases, who will use some of that "nudging" to exploit the people they have power over. Who gets decide to optimal amount of diversification when the government is fighting a war? Who gets to determine the proper utility trade-off between pleasurable and healthy food? Why would the power to "nudge" in relatively clear cut cases extinguish the instinctual urge to do so in not easy ones? Sure, someone better knowledgeable than I can make a better decision in many cases, but as a result of that relationship he also immediately gains incentives to use me for his ends. The principal-agent problem -- writ far larger, and more intractable.
9.11.2009 3:25am
Ricardo (mail):
The point Sunstein and Thaler get at is that it doesn't make sense to take a principled stance against all nudges all the time. Nudges do exist and are being used in the real world. To give one example, I know someone who used to work at Capital One: that company has a research budget of millions of dollars devoted to studying every last detail of their advertising and billing statements (which parts to put in bold font, how much to make the minimum payment, which colors to use in the advertising, etc.). They are constantly looking for new ways to nudge their customers into doing things that earn more profit for the firm.

Nudges are being used all the time by people who don't necessarily have the best interests of their targets in mind. Putting a check on that in some situations doesn't strike me as all that sinister.
9.11.2009 4:46am
Shane:
I'm actually quite shocked that even the benign example of a school administrator making choices on what foods to place at eye-level for children who buy food in the cafeteria, sparked controversy. I'm sorry it offends the sensibilities of libertarians more pure than I to observe that often, policymakers MUST make a decision.

For what it's worth, private for-profit industry uses the same principles in marketing and advertising. I don't have a big problem with McDonald's figuring out a way to increase the average amount of fries sold per customer, if their goal is to increase profits.

Similarly, if my goal is to reduce car accidents, or reduce pollution, or reduce crime, or increase health, then it wouldn't be very smart to completely ignore the literature on consumer psychology.

And yes, I strongly feel that in many cases elites have better decisionmaking abilities than average people. Like I said before, advertising and marketing depend heavily on this premise.

For another example, I think that the average health care provider has the responsibility to nudge his patients into healthier behavior. We can recognize that there must be some doctors who are more effective than others at convincing their patients to quit smoking. Are their patients who quit some kind of victim, in that they were nudged into something that they might not have otherwise done had their doctor been a less effective communicator? It seems that some people in this thread would say yes, and I think that position is absurd. They are still choosing to quit smoking. They understand why, and the doctor genuinely is looking out for the patients' best interests.
9.11.2009 5:18am
Occasional Lurker:
The big issue for me with "nudging" by government is transparency or accountability. This is close to Cato the Elder's concern about "who decides." But my concern is whether the decision is even perceived or understood as a decision in the first place, and in the second place as a government decision. It may not always matter, but I'd want to know whether a default is imposed by the government.
9.11.2009 11:35am
Donald (mail):
Wow


(as did the strongly anti-free market Virgina Senator James Webb)


This is a pretty shoddy little passing swipe. I'm not sure it helps your case for Sunstein all that much (see Mark N.'s comment), and it's unsourced. Are we all just supposed to *know* that Webb is an evil anti-free-marketer? Or is it a reference to his support for card check legislation?

I guess even very intelligent law professors are not immune to easy shortcuts in their thinking and argument.
9.11.2009 12:35pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
To be more specific - why is placing twinkies at eye level preferable to placing healthier foods at eye level, given that (at least in the school context) someone has to make that decision? Why should "consumers" - children in this context - be exploited in favor of junk food instead of healthier food?
Twinkies taste better.
9.11.2009 12:40pm
Angus:
Second History,
I spot checked your list, and ones I checked were not filibustered. Cloture is used to end debate, not just in the case of filibusters. For example, Richard Carmona's cloture vote was 98-0. Care to point out who filibustered him?
9.11.2009 12:57pm
Officious Intermeddler:
David Nieporent:

But all liberals hold that premise. Sunstein is one of the least likely to engage in coercion based on that premise.


Hence why I agree with Ilya that he's immeasurably better for OIRA than anybody else Obama was likely to appoint.

Ricardo:

Do you dispute that investment professionals have a better idea of how to achieve a diversified investment portfolio than the average person?


No. I dispute that investment professionals are qualified to determine whether a diversified investment portfolio is appropriate for any given individual without actually speaking to that individual and understanding his priorities, preferences, and goals.

Moreover, there's a pretty basic difference between investment professionals making assumptions about value to devise default options for customers who can go elsewhere, and government functionaries making assumptions about value to devise default options for citizens who can't.

Nudges are being used all the time by people who don't necessarily have the best interests of their targets in mind.


Indeed. Which is why government functionaries should never be nudging anybody.
9.11.2009 2:49pm
The Man (mail):
What's interesting to me about the list of 14 Bush nominees allegedly filibustered is did any Republicans join in, as Sens. Lincoln and Webb did?

Also, most of the Reps who filibustered were either on the record as saying filibusters of nominations were unconstitutional or were part of the Gang of 14. So, this is quite the turnabout for someone so eminently qualified.
9.11.2009 3:51pm
ArthurKirkland:
I doubt the Democrats conducted any filibuster with respect to Richard Carmona. (If anyone should have filibustered Richard Carmona, it would have been the Republicans. After his term as surgeon general under G.W. Bush, Carmona skewered the G.W. Bush administration for suppressing science.) Any list that identifies Carmona as a filibustered Republican nominee seems to constitute bad information.

It takes a peculiar view of the world to conclude that inclining children to eat carrots rather than Twinkies is a point for objection (or even indifference) rather than applause.
9.11.2009 4:18pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

It takes a peculiar view of the world to conclude that inclining children to eat carrots rather than Twinkies is a point for objection (or even indifference) rather than applause.


Of course. It is a point for objection when a democrat says it. I hear Sunstein is injecting these carrots with Marxist juice.
9.11.2009 4:29pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

Twinkies taste better.

And compared to some things they may actually qualify as health food.
9.11.2009 4:55pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Of course. It is a point for objection when a democrat the government says it.


Fixed that for you. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum presumes to tell me how I should live my life, my answer is the same: Fuck off.
9.11.2009 5:03pm
Oren:
Organizing the school cafeteria's placement of food items is telling you how you should live your life?
9.11.2009 5:46pm
ShelbyC:

Organizing the school cafeteria's placement of food items is telling you how you should live your life?


Well, if I'm following the discussion correctly, isn't that exactly what it is?
9.11.2009 6:17pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Organizing the school cafeteria's placement of food items is telling you how you should live your life?


You're utilizing consumer psychology principles to organize the placement of food items in order to achieve some agenda that the consumers themselves (or their relevant guardians) may or may not share.

If that's not directly telling people how to live their lives, it's certainly presuming that you know better than they do what's good for them, and subtly urging them to alter their behavior. And, again, my response is: Fuck off.

This is what I meant when I said above that Nudge is a recipe for coating authoritarianism in the chocolate of "choice architecture" to make it go down easier. It's a manifesto for self-righteous busybodies who think that their assumptions about value somehow deserve to be privileged.

Get it through your head that there is no objectively "correct" way to live; that people are going to make life choices of which you disapprove; and that when they do it's none of your goddamn business.
9.11.2009 7:40pm
Oren:
So why can't we celebrate the cafeteria administrator's "life choices" to put the carrots at eye level and twinkies on the bottom shelf?

In fact, by your logic, we should celebrate the cafeteria administrator's "life choice" to ban twinkies from his cafeteria regardless and impose a regimented diet. How dare you assert that the cafeteria administrator's officious meddling is an "objectively incorrect way to live" or that we should somehow privilege your (libertarian) values about his (authoritarian) values.

[ Not that I don't generally agree with maximal freedom and libertarianism in general, but I must admit that letting individuals make value judgments for themselves is, itself, a value judgment about how others should live -- to wit, that they should not interfere in the decisions of others. Of course, in doing so, I insist in my right to interfere with the decisions of others insofar as their chosen course of actions involves interference in the rights of others.]
9.11.2009 8:44pm
Shane:
Officious Intermeddler still seems to insist that there is a null case, which is wrong.

SOMETHING must be put at eye level - how should the school administrator decide what to put there, knowing that it will introduce a subtle pressure to choose that item. Are you proposing a lottery?

These decisions must be made - what to buy, how much to buy, and where to place it. "I will buy nothing" or "roll the dice" are still decisions. Fuck Off isn't a policy-making strategy, and a policy must be made (if even to make the decision that there will be no policy).

The employer has to set a default 401(k) enrollment plan, or place checkboxes in a certain order on the form for new employees. There is no way around this. Might as well do what the literature says is best without restricting choice. And yes, I specifically chose the example of the employer because most policies that affect our lives are made by non-government decisionmakers.
9.11.2009 9:31pm
Mac (mail):

I just think we ought to note that many "ordinary financial professionals" didn't do so well by their clients when the soundness of their advice was put to the test.


They have never done well in my personal experience. They are NOT experts in finance, they are salespeople. Period. They give you a false feeling of confidence in their advice which is much more harmful than if they just told you that they have no better idea of what is going to happen than your dog.

A question. With the possible exception of Middle School, and that does not apply across the board, whose eye level? There is a vast difference in the eye level of a first grader and a fifth grader. I should think that eye level is the bottom shelf for a first grader and the middle to top shelf for a fifth grader.

Who decides that and what impact does the disparate eye levels have on the ability to "nudge". Does it not render it meaningless in the end?
9.12.2009 5:14pm

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