Futuribles Journal n° 353

Économie, emploi - Société, modes de vie

Decision-Making Without Tears? On Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge

Starting out from the observation that individuals are sometimes at a loss over how to make the "right" decisions, two American academics (an economist, Richard Thaler, and a legal scholar, Cass Sunstein) have looked for a way to reduce the difficulties associated with certain choices.
Each day we have decisions to make that are difficult either because they involve immediate costs while bringing benefits that are not themselves immediate (such as giving up smoking) or because the assessment of the advantages and drawbacks is very complicated (as in investment decisions). It very often happens, too, that we select bad options because we do not understand the relevant situation or simply because of a lack of determination. To avoid this and help individuals make good choices that are freely arrived at, the authors of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008) advance various solutions they term "libertarian paternalistic", which consist in proposing a "decision architecture" that facilitates decision-making or offers automatic default decisions.
Charles du Granrut has analysed the book for Futuribles. Here he outlines this pragmatic procedure and shows its advantages but also its limits, particularly in fields such as finance and health.