Mr Spock vs Homer Simpson

I have recently read “Nudge” – a book about ‘liberal paternalism’, as the authors put it. This is where we are guided towards the better option for us, but not cutting out other choices, nor making it hard to take other options.

For example – the food in school canteens have to be laid out in someway. Liberal paternalism would have the healthy food at the front, in the eye line and easy grab-ability of students. The unhealthy food is still there, they still have the choice to take it and it is not difficult to do so, it’s just easier to get the healthy food.

They apply this principle to a whole range of topics, including the environment and being green.

They also talk about Mr Spock vs Homer Simpson, your logical side vs your irrational, easily led side. You may plan logically to get out of bed early and do some exercise, your Mr Spock will set the alarm, in the morning your inner Homer will turn off the alarm and continue to snooze. Needless to say Homer is responsible for a lot of what is wrong with my life and I am sure you can think of some examples in your life too.

Nudging is all about helping people to control their Homer.

The authors raise some good points and provide some very good case studies and examples of how this can be used to cut traffic accidents, help people save more money, get the right health care and make the right choices for them, without descending into a nanny state which impinges our free choice. More often than not in the examples they give someone has to make a default choice for everyone and this book talks about making it easier for people to make the best decisions for themselves, the country and the environment.

I realise that sounds very grandiose, but I really think that if more politicians were to read this book and put its theories into play then we would start to live in a better society.

I dont want to give any of the book away – for an economics book it is highly interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. The  strapline for their website is

improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness.

So, if you have read it – what do you think, if you havent – are you going to now? If so, let me know!


2 thoughts on “Mr Spock vs Homer Simpson

  1. Mara says:

    It sounds interesting, so I will order it from the library. 🙂 Hopefully it will be somewhere in circulation and, if not, I’ll put in a stock request and see what happens.

    This is a subject I do a lot of battling with myself about. On the one hand I agree about (e.g.) having all food on display but healthy at the front. But part of me feels that this is playing the game using the opposition’s tactics, so to speak. I would rather use education to explain to people properly and honestly what the options are and then let them make up their own minds. That, I think, is a much more difficult job. Especially when the media is so skewed towards promoting doubt about positive action towards a better life, and uses sensationalist tactics to do so.

    On the other hand, there is such power in the media and in advertising that somewhat sneaky means are justified. *sigh* I shall get back to you after getting the book. 🙂

  2. Frugal Trenches says:

    This is a great post!

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