This book is not for me, even though it is a topic that I am interested in, and one of the authors is a Nobel Laureate. My feelings toward it went quickly from ‘meh’ to dislike to hate. It is a good topic written badly. The condescending tone and the feeble attempts at humor annoyed me. I honestly could not bear it when I was half way. But then I struggled to finish it.
For topics on behavioral psychology and economics, there are many books that are far more informative and engaging – Predictably Irrational, Thinking Fast and Slow, Stumbling on Happiness, Mindless Eating, just to name a few. In comparison, this book is dry and offers no new insights. Still, this first part is better than the later examples/applications that bore me to tears.
The authors believe that many issues in society can be solved by ‘nudging’, in other words, subtly influencing the stupid population to make better decisions (e.g. set better default choices, design better systems and processes, require better information disclosure). These are all well and good, but they failed to sufficiently address the very real issue of banks, insurance companies, politicians that intentionally confuse and mislead the population in order to gain from their bad decisions. For example, the discussions on subprime loans completely missed the point. As a result, many advice/suggestions in this book are more noble than practical.
Because of the various fallacies of human brains, we don’t always make the best decisions. We know it. This is part of life, the learning process. People harvest what they sow. Every responsible person should know what happens if they over-spend, or over-eat, or sign papers without reading them, or whatever. Some self-congratulatory economists might think ‘nudges’ from companies or government could solve these problems. No, they can’t. Not to mention that improving self-destructive lives was rarely the top priority of these so-called ‘choice architects’.
I hate the phrase ‘libertarian paternalism’ with a vengeance – its appearance in every chapter (if not every page) makes me sick. To me it means people are manipulated into making certain choices, while foolishly feel that they chose with 100% free will. It is hypocrisy in my book. The authors seem to advise those in power that instead of helping us to become more intelligent or gain a greater degree of control over our lives, they should work on ‘nudging’ us to make the decisions they want us to make. I trust the authors’ intention was to make the world a better place. So, did I get the whole thing wrong? Or maybe because I am not the target audience of this book? Anyway, I am just so glad the ordeal is over.