Popular Media

No, Nudge Was Not on Trial

Slate’s David Weigel ran an otherwise informative piece on Cass Sunstein’s testimony, as head of OIRA, at a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee.  The headline?  Nudge on Trial: Cass Sunstein Defends the White House Against a Republican Attack.  From Weigel’s description of the hearing, there was some general hand wringing about whether there is too much or too little regulation, whether the number of regulations is higher or lower under the Obama administration than during the George W. Bush administration, some run-of-the-mill posturing from questioners.  Weigel concludes the hearing ended “with Sunstein having done no obvious harm to his mission.”

All fine.  And like I said — the article was informative with regard to the hearing.  But its a pretty sloppy and misleading headline.   There are, I think, some interesting issues concerning whether the Obama administration has retreated from behavioral economics a la Nudge, whether (as Ezra Klein contends) Republicans hate behavioral economics, and the role of behavioral economics in administrative agencies and regulation.   Unfortunately, the article really wasn’t about Nudging or behavioral-economics based regulation at all.  If Nudge is going to have its trial — it will be another day.

In the meantime, you can start here for some good background reading on the topic.

Filed under: behavioral economics, free to choose symposium, journalism, regulation