On Tuesday, October 3, Cass Sunstein delivered the first lecture of the academic year in the 5th Annual "Chicago's Best Ideas" series. His title was "Nudge: The Gentle Power of Libertarian Paternalism." The room was packed, as usual for Cass, and the discussion was lively. The topic was quintessential behavioral law and econ, and was quite interesting (even to a layperson). Well worth your time, but we think all CBIs are, so you shouldn't trust us - you should check it out for yourself. As always, podcast instructions are here, and the blurb for the talk is below the fold.
The idea of libertarian paternalism might seem to be an oxymoron, but it is both possible and desirable for private and public institutions to influence behavior while also respecting freedom of choice. Often people's preferences are unclear and ill-formed, and their choices will inevitably be influenced by default rules, framing effects, and starting points. In these circumstances, a form of paternalism cannot be avoided. Equipped with an understanding of behavioral findings of bounded rationality and bounded self-control, libertarian paternalists should attempt to steer people's choices in welfare-promoting directions without eliminating freedom of choice. It is also possible to show how a libertarian paternalist might select among the possible options and to assess how much choice to offer. Examples are given from many areas, including savings behavior, labor law, and consumer protection.