White House Creates Team To Shape Americans' Behavior

White House Creates Team To Shape Americans' Behavior

Video of Cass Sunstein, President Barack Obama’s former Regulatory Czar promoting the Nudge theory

FOX NEWS: The federal government is hiring what it calls a “Behavioral Insights Team” that will look for ways to subtly influence people’s behavior, according to a document describing the program obtained by FoxNews.com. Critics warn there could be unintended consequences to such policies, while supporters say the team could make government and society more efficient. While the program is still in its early stages, the document shows the White House is already working on such projects with almost a dozen federal departments and agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. The document was emailed by Maya Shankar, a White House senior adviser on social and behavioral sciences, to a university professor with the request that it be distributed to people interested in joining the team. The idea is that the team would “experiment” with various techniques, with the goal of tweaking behavior so people do everything from saving more for retirement to saving more in energy costs.The document praises subtle policies to change behavior that have already been implemented in England, which already has a “Behavioral Insights Team.” One British policy concerns how to get late tax filers to pay up.Another policy aimed to convince people to install attic insulation to conserve energy.
,br>Such policies — which encourage behavior subtly rather than outright require it — have come to be known as “nudges,” after an influential 2008 book titled “Nudge” by former Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein and Chicago Booth School of Business professor Richard Thaler popularized the term.The term “nudge” has already been associated with the new program, as one professor who received Shankar’s email forwarded it to others with the note: “Anyone interested in working for the White House in a ‘nudge’ squad? The UK has one and it’s been extraordinarily successful.”Richard Thaler told FoxNews.com that the new program sounds good.But some economists urge caution.And sometimes, he added, government actually promotes the wrong thing.Every intervention would need to be tested to make sure it works well, said Harvard economics professor David Laibson, who studies behavioral economics and is in touch with the people in government setting up the program. He added that the exact way the team will function is currently unknown.

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