Avishalom Tor


The increasing popularity of behavioral interventions—also known as nudges—is largely due to their perceived potential to promote public and private welfare at dramatically lower costs than those of traditional regulatory instruments, such as mandates or taxes. Yet, though nudges typically involve low implementation costs, scholars and policymakers alike tend to underestimate their often-substantial private costs. Once these costs are accounted for, most nudges turn out to generate significantly lower net benefits than assumed, and some prove less efficient or less cost-effective than traditional instruments. At other times, the private costs of behavioral interventions are sufficiently large to render them socially costly and undesirable even in the absence of superior traditional instruments. Policymakers who implement nudges without considering their private costs therefore risk doing harm rather than good.

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