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'Libertarian Paternalism': Guiding Without Coercion - Philip Collins

Complete video at: http://fora.tv/2009/11/01/Nudge_Nudge_Nag_Nag_The_New_Politics_of_Behavior Tony Blair speechwriter Philip Collins examines concepts presented in the book Nudge, which advocates a "libertarian paternalism" based on the principles of behavioral economics. While the concept may sound like an oxymoron, Collins argues that such policies would guide people in the right direction while leaving them the ability to opt out. ----- The question of whether it is legitimate for governments to coerce people for their own good has long been an important one in politics. Ever since the birth of liberal thought, some critics have worried that, freed from the constraints of authority or tradition, people will make the "wrong choices." From censorship of "dangerous" books and ideas to prohibition of alcohol and restrictions on smoking, there is a long tradition of authoritarian intervention to save people from themselves. Thaler and Sunstein's influential 2008 book, Nudge, sparked an ongoing debate about a new brand of "libertarian paternalism." Rather than actually coercing people, the authors argue that by giving thought to "choice architecture," governments can nudge people into making better decisions for themselves, society and the environment. From setting defaults to encourage employees to pay into pension funds, to using psychological tricks to encourage recycling, the authors suggest various ways of encouraging desired behavior without compromising autonomy. Is it childish to object to such "nudges," as long the final decision rests with us, or do they represent a patronizing affront to our individual autonomy? Is this really libertarian, or just a more subtle form of the "nanny state," as confident as ever that the experts knows best? Who decides what kind of behavior is desirable or otherwise? - Battle of Ideas Philip Collins is a writer on The London Times and a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics. He was, until July 2007, Chief Speech Writer to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, in 10 Downing Street. Between 2000 and 2004, he was Director of the Social Market Foundation (SMF), an independent think-tank and charity. Prior to that, Mr. Collins spent five years as an investment banker, ending his time in the City as the top ranked equity strategist in the smaller companies sector. He has also worked as a political assistant to Frank Field MP, for the Institute of Education at the University of London and for the BBC and London Weekend Television.
Length: 04:47

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