Nudge (book)

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Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness is a book written by two college professors, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.

In the book, the modern viewpoint of central planning is put on display along with a defense of paternalism and what is termed "choice architecture".

Book Title

The book title is descriptive of its content in that the authors believe that they can use government to "nudge" you into making better decisions.


After introducing the reader to a "choice architect" named Carolyn, the authors proceed to delve into research about cell phones and what they view as the problem of too many choices. Research, they claim, shows that the buyer will take whatever the default option is, even as a more expensive(higher end) option is chosen and more choices result.[1] There are two important lessons that they conclude from this research:

First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed.[1]

Choice Architecture

Using Carolyn and a helper named Adam as examples to promote paternalism, the authors highlight a cafeteria experiment:

He was right. Simply by rearranging the cafeteria, Carolyn was able to increase or decrease the consumption of many food items by as much as 25 percent.[2]

By "architecting" people's choices, that is, by putting fruits in front of cake or vegetables on a higher row, eye level, they were able to exert an influence over people.

Government Advocacy

Calling their "nudge" formula "Libertarian Paternalism", the authors make a direct plea for governmental policy.[3]

First, they say this is libertarian because people are still left to choose.

Secondly, the paternalistic aspect is in that "it is legitimate for choice architects to try to influence people's behavior in order to make their lives longer, healthier, and better." - being almost word for word the title of the book.

Governments, no less than cafeterias(which governments frequently run), have to provide starting points of one or another kind. This is not avoidable.[4]


Glenn Beck has been highly critical of Sunstein and his un-announced nudges.[5] He points out[6] that those who are nudging get tired of our noncompliance. "And then when you won’t do what they ask you to do, then they just shove you."[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Introduction, p. 6
  2. Introduction, p. 1
  3. Introduction, p. 3-4
  4. Introduction, p. 8
  5. 5.0 5.1 How do you transform a nation? Nudge, shove, shoot
  6. Cass Sunstein once again proves to be the most dangerous man in America

External links